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July 11, 2011

Judicial review of position classification decisions


Judicial review of position classification decisions
Matter of Civil Serv. Employees Assn., Inc., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO v State of New York Unified Ct. Sys., 35 A.D.3d 1005, 826 N.Y.S.2d 481

Observing that when a position classification decision is made, "[t]he courts have the power to reverse or modify a particular classification . . . [only] if it is 'wholly arbitrary or without any rational basis,'" the Appellate Division dismissed CSEA’s attempt to compel the Office of Court Administration’s Chief Administrative Judge to reclassify certain Court Clerks (JG-18) positions to Senior Court Clerk (JG-21).

In the words of the Appellate Division: “[s]o long as the [position] classification determination has a rational basis, this Court may not disturb it even if there are legitimate grounds for a difference of opinion.”

CSEA argued that the Office of Court Administration’s decision to eliminate the position of Senior Court Clerk in the Third and Fourth Judicial Departments, while retaining the Senior Court Clerk position in the First and Second Judicial Departments, had no rational basis because there were no differences in the job duties of Court Clerks upstate and Senior Court Clerks downstate.

The Appellate Division, pointing out that by law the Court Clerks in the First and Second Judicial Departments are peace officers, rejected CSEA’s argument that the additional duties expected of peace officers are not relevant as they are not mentioned in the job description for Senior Court Clerk. It said that “Repeating in the job standard what has been conferred by the Legislature would be unnecessary.”

As to CSEA’s claim that it was unlikely that “Senior Court Clerks will be called upon to provide backup to uniformed courtroom security,” the court said that this is not determinative as the duties required from title classifications need only be performed "as the need occurs."

CSEA also contended that the Office of Court Administration’s decision “violates Civil Service Law §115.” §115 states that it is "the policy of the state to provide equal pay for equal work." Although CSEA argued “that the peace officer status for Senior Court Clerks is meaningless and that the clerical duties of both titles are identical,” the Appellate Division said that it disagreed that the peace officer status of the Senior Court Clerk is meaningless, concluding that Senior Court Clerks and Court Clerks do not “provide equal work.”

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New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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