Friday, September 02, 2011

Equal pay - Judges


Equal pay - Judges
Affronti v Crosson, NYS Court of Appeals, 95 NY2d 713

Sometimes one employee of the State of New York will receive a supplement to his or her annual salary not being paid to another State worker employed in the same title. Typically such differences result from the supplements to annual compensation based on “geographic” considerations [Civil Service Law Section 130.7], “hazardous duty differentials” [Civil Service Law Section 130.9], an “occupational pay differential” [Civil Service Law Section 130.13] or the payment of a “shift differential” [Civil Service Law Section 130.6].*

Accordingly, certain State employees may receive a different amount as total compensation than that paid to other State employees appointed to the same title. Does such an arrangement violate the “Equal Protection” mandates of the Fourteenth Amendment or the State's policy of “equal pay for equal work” [Civil Service Law Section 115]? Essentially this was the question raised by the Affronti case.

State Family Court judges serving in Monroe County and State Family Court judges in Sullivan, Putnam and Suffolk Counties do not receive the same rates of compensation.

The Family Court judges in Monroe County sued the Office of Court Administration [OCA], contending that “the statutorily enacted pay disparities” between and among Family Court judges “violate their rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the Federal Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the State Constitution.”

In support of their claim, the Monroe County judges presented evidence of “a similarity -- in the functions, duties and responsibilities performed -- between themselves and Judges in the other counties,” together with economic data related to the “cost of living” in certain areas to support their claim. OCA presented expert testimony and statistical data showing a cost of living differential between Monroe and Suffolk Counties and rested its case.**

The test applied by the Court of Appeals in resolving the controversy: was there a rational basis for these salary disparities?

According to the ruling, where a governmental classification is not based on an inherently suspect characteristic and does not impermissibly interfere with the exercise of a fundamental right, it need only rationally further a legitimate state interest to be upheld as constitutional.

Finding that the challenged “disparate judicial salary schedules in Judiciary Law Sections 221-d and 221-e do not involve suspect classes or fundamental rights,” the Court of Appeals ruled that the Monroe County judges claims were to be resolved on a “rational basis review.” The court's conclusion: The challenged provisions of the Judiciary Law had a rational basis and thus do not violate equal protection.

According to the decision, the fact that Putnam County Court Judges performed multiple judicial roles preclude a finding of any “true unity of judicial interest in the compared posts” and thus provide a rational basis for the statutory salary differentials.

In addition, the Court of Appeals decided that the Monroe County judges “proffered no proof that the costs of living in Monroe and Suffolk County are comparable”, thereby failing to demonstrate a “true unity of ... judicial interest ... indistinguishable by separate geographic considerations”.

Presumably the same analysis would be applied in cases involving challenges to pay differentials granted to State employees pursuant to one or more of the relevant subdivisions of Section 130 of the Civil Service Law.


* The provisions of Article VIII of the Civil Service Law -- Classification and Compensation of State Employees -- do not apply to employees of municipalities and political subdivisions of the State.

**Limited evidence concerning this matter was introduced by OCA. The Court of Appeals said, “the State has no obligation to produce evidence to sustain the rationality of a statutory classification. A legislative choice is not subject to courtroom fact-finding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data”.

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/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions 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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