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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Determining seniority in a civil division of the State


Determining seniority in a civil division of the State
Turner v Ulster County, 284 A.D.2d 703

Seniority is the key to layoff rights in the public service. Typically seniority is based on the individual's uninterrupted service with the governmental entity in which the layoff takes place measured from the original date of the individual's permanent appointment in the civil service of that entity, regardless of the jurisdictional classification of the position or positions held by the individual.

Police Captain George B. Turner was laid off when the Town of Ulster abolished his position. Turner contended that he had displacement rights based on his seniority in the classified service and thus he could “bump” Donald H. Short, a lieutenant in the Town Police Department. The County personnel officer, Thomas J. Costello, ruled that Turner did not have displacement rights over Short as Short had more permanent service in the relevant civil division -- the Town of Ulster.

According to the decision, Turner was originally appointed as a Deputy Sheriff by the Ulster County Sheriff's Department on January 16, 1978 and was continuously employed there until November 9, 1990. On that date Turner was appointed to a position in the Town Police Department from a civil service open competitive eligible list. Turner was ultimately promoted to the position of police captain.

Short, on the other hand, had continuously served with the Town Police Department since January 1, 1983, and the Ulster County personnel director determined that he had been appointed as a permanent employee prior to Turner's appointment by the Town.

Ulster County Civil Service Rules and Regulations defines “permanent service,” a key element in determining seniority for the purposes of layoff, as “start[ing] on the date of the incumbent's original appointment on a permanent basis in the classified service.” The rules also provide that “[t]he permanent service of any employee who was transferred from another civil division shall start on the date of his/her original permanent appointment in the classified service in the other civil division [emphasis supplied].”

The Appellate Division said that: It is clear that for purposes of seniority, length of time in service is measured from the date of original appointment on a permanent basis in the classified service of the layoff unit where the abolishment occurs. Since petitioner was appointed to the position of lieutenant in the Town Police Department on November 9, 1990 from an open competitive eligible list, this date of appointment marks the commencement of his service in the classified service in the layoff [sic] unit. There is no merit to petitioner's contention that his original appointment in the classified service occurred in 1978 with his appointment to the Ulster County Sheriff's Department since he did not transfer from the Sheriff's Department to the Town Police Department.

The crux of the matter is the meaning of the term “civil division.” Section 2.8 of the Civil Service Law defines “service of a civil division” to “include all offices and positions in the civil division of any subdivision of the state and the term 'civil division' shall include within its meaning a city.”

The Appellate Division agreed with the personnel officer's determination that the Ulster County and the Town of Ulster are different and separate “civil divisions.” As the Court of Appeals said in Chittenden v Wurster, 152 NY 345, the civil divisions of the State are its counties and its towns and its villages. 

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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