Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Challenging the employer’s discontinuing §207-c General Municipal Law benefits


Challenging the employer’s discontinuing §207-c General Municipal Law benefits
Matter of Zembiec v County of Monroe, 2011 NY Slip Op 06757, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Thomas C. Zembiec asked Supreme Court to annul the Monroe County Sheriff's Department decision to discontinue his General Municipal Law §207-c for the period from August 12, 2008 through June 15, 2009 after if it determined he was not entitled to such disability benefits. In addition, Zembiec challenged the Department’s suspending his regular salary from June 15, 2009 through March 25, 2010. The Department argued that Zembiec was not entitled to such payments because he failed to report for his light duty assignment when directed to do so.

The Appellate Division summarized the benefits provided by General Municipal Law §207-c to law enforcement personnel injured in the performance of their official duties as follows: Such personnel injured in the performance of his or her duties or who has become ill as a result of the performance of his duties so as to necessitate medical or other lawful remedial treatment is entitled to specified benefits. The statute does not require that a qualified employee demonstrate that his or her disability "is related in a substantial degree" to the employee's job duties and the individual need only prove a direct causal relationship between job duties and the resulting illness or injury to qualify for such benefits.

The Court held that Supreme Court “properly concluded that the denial of [§207-c] benefits for the period from August 12, 2008 to June 15, 2009 was arbitrary and capricious” as Zembiec had established “the requisite direct causal relationship between his job duties and his resulting illness ….”

On June 15, 2009 Zembiec, however, failed to report for a modified duty assignment. As §207-c(3) provides for termination of benefits upon an employee's refusal to return to work to perform a light duty assignment "consistent with his status as [an officer]," the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court was incorrect in granting that portion of Zembiec’s petition seeking his “regular pay” for the period June 15, 2009 through March 25, 2010, finding that Zembiec did not have any right to his regular pay after he failed to report to work to perform his light duty assignment.

The Appellate Division contrasted an individual’s right to §207-c payments in cases where the individual “avails himself [or herself] of due process protections by challenging the medical examiner's determination [that he or she is qualified for light duty or is qualified to resume his or her regular assignments] as such a challenge cannot be equated with a refusal to return to duty" to a refusal to report to work, either light duty or regular duty, after he or she is unsuccessful in challenging the medical examiner’s determination.

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General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder is available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click on http://section207.blogspot.com/ for additional information about this electronic reference manual.

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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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