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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Out of title work assignments


Out of title work assignments
Murphy v Herik, NYS Supreme Court [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports]

Out-of-title work usually refers to an employer assigning an individual to perform the duties of the incumbent of different, typically higher level, position. Section 61.2 of the Civil Service Law provides that:

Prohibition against out-of-title work. No person shall be appointed, promoted or employed under any title not appropriate to the duties to be performed and, except upon assignment by proper authority during the continuance of a temporary emergency situation, no person shall be assigned to perform the duties of any position unless he has been duly appointed, promoted, transferred or reinstated to such position in accordance with the provisions of this chapter and the rules prescribed thereunder. No credit shall be granted in a promotion examination for out-of-title work.

Many collective bargaining agreements require that if the employer assigns an individual to perform "out-of-title" work for more than a designated period of time, he or she is to be compensated at the appropriate pay level of the higher position.

Detailing is used to describe a form of assigning an individual to perform "out-of-title" frequently encountered in law enforcement organizations. Its most common manifestation: assigning a police patrol officer to perform the duties of a detective or investigator. Officers detailed to perform the duties of a detective or an investigator typically are not permanently appointed to the position. Section 58.4.c(ii) of the Civil Service Law was enacted to address this practice and provides that:

In any jurisdiction, other than a city with a population of one million or more, which does not administer examinations for designation to detective or investigator, any person who has received permanent appointment to the position of police officer or deputy sheriff and is temporarily assigned to perform the duties of detective or investigator shall, whenever such assignment to the duties of a detective or investigator exceeds eighteen months, be permanently designated as a detective or investigator and receive the compensation ordinarily paid to persons in such designation.

By its terms, Section 58.4.c(11) does not cover New York City police officers. However, Section 14-103(b)(2) of the City's Administrative Code tracks Section 58.4.c[ii] and provides that a "permanent police officer who temporarily perform the functions of what is otherwise considered to be detective work for periods of 18 months or more are to be appointed as detectives and be compensated as such."

Michael Murphy, a New York City police officer, was assigned to the Harbor Unit, Vessel Theft Team. His duties included the investigation of stolen marine equipment; returning stolen property to its rightful owner and maintaining a working relationship with insurance companies for the purpose of identifying insurance fraud. After he had been performing these duties for over three years, Murphy's commanding officer, John Cassidy, recommended that Murphy be appointed to third-grade detective. Cassidy's justification for his recommendation: Murphy's primary responsibilities were those of a detective.

The Department rejected Cassidy's recommendation and Murphy filed a grievance challenging its decision. The Department denied Murphy's grievance and he commenced an Article 78 proceeding in March of 2001 seeking a court order directing his appointment as a detective.

The Department asked the court to dismiss Murphy's petition. It contended that its rejecting Murphy's appointment as a detective was justified because the Harbor Unit was specifically excluded from the career-path for detective by a lawful Department policy. Accordingly, the Department argued, Murphy can not be deemed to have been performing detective work as part of the Harbor Unit and therefore he was not eligible for appointment as a detective pursuant to Section 14-103(b) (2) of the Code.

The Department also contended that Murphy was aware of the fact that the Harbor Unit was not on the career path for detective when he accepted the assignment.

Murphy, on the other hand, contended that he was eligible for appointment as a detective pursuant to the Code, citing Ryff v Safir, 264 AD2d 349, as authority for this claim. In Ryff, the Appellate Division ruled that the fact that the Harbor Unit was not included in the Department's career-path for detective did not exempt it from the provisions of Administrative Code Section 14-103(b)(2).

Supreme Court Justice was to prevent the department rejected the Department's argument that appointment as a detective does not depend on the actual work performed but rather on whether or not the position is on the career path for detective. Justice Madden said that the legislative intent in both Section 58.4 of the Civil Service Law and Section 14-103(b)(2) of the City's Administrative Code "was to prevent the department, for budgetary reasons, from using non-detective track officers in detective track positions, while denying the officers the benefit of those positions."

In effect, the court decided that the Department's justification for its action placed form over substance. As Murphy's duties were substantially similar to that of detective, Justice Madden ruled that Murphy was entitled to appointment as a detective pursuant to Section 14-103(b)(2). Justice Madden pointed out that there was no dispute concerning Murphy's performing criminal investigative duties, noting that Murphy was awarded "Investigator of the Year" from the International Association of Marine Investigators.

Deciding that Department's ruling that Murphy was precluded from being appointed as detective simply because his position was not included in its designated "career path" for detectives was arbitrary and capricious, Justice Madden granted Murphy's petition and, in addition, ruled that Murphy was entitled to compensation as a detective beginning 18 months subsequent to his original appointment to the Harbor Unit.

The lesson of the Murphy decision is that employees may not be required to perform out-of-title duties except in cases involving a temporary emergency. If they are assigned, or permitted, to perform out-of-title duties when there is no temporary emergency, the employer may be held liable to pay any resulting salary differential.

One of the administrative procedures available to an individual who believes that he or she is being to required to perform higher level "out-of-title" work is to request that his or her position be reclassified to the higher level title -- i.e., a position allocated to a higher salary grade.

This is usually accomplished by filing a request for reclassification of the position with the responsible civil service commission or department.

The employer, also, may initiate a request for reclassification of a position. In some cases, the employer and the employee may file a "joint" application to have the position reclassified. Concerning a related point, classification and reclassification of a position focuses on the duties of a position while allocation or reallocation of a position is concerned with placing the position in the proper pay grade or setting its appropriate salary rate.

However, approval of an "out-of-title" reclassification application does not mean the individual has the right to be continued in the reclassified title. If a position in the competitive class is reclassified, the individual will have to qualify for permanent appointment to the new title by examination, despite the fact that he or she had been "performing the duties of the higher level position" and was instrumental in having it reclassified. The same applies with respect to qualifying for appointment to a higher level position in the noncompetitive class following reclassification of the lower level position.

In some instances this could result in the individual's being "reclassified out of his or her job." Some modest protections, however, may be available to the individual whose position has been reclassified to avoid this result, at least temporarily. For example, insofar as "employees of the State" are concerned, the State Civil Service Commission's Rules, [4 NYCRR 4.1(d) provide that:

A promotion eligible list shall not be certified for filling a permanent vacancy created by upward reclassification of a permanently encumbered position where promotion from such list would require the layoff of a permanent employee or the reassignment of a permanent employee to a different geographical location; but this provision shall not apply if the incumbent whose position was reclassified has, following such reclassification, twice failed to qualify for promotion to the reclassified position.

4 NYCRR 4.1(e) which applies to employees in the classified service of the State and public authorities, public benefit corporations and other agencies for which the Civil Service Law is administered by the State Department of Civil Service, provides similar protections with respect to the certification and use of an open competitive eligible list.

Many municipal civil service commissions have adopted similar rules.*

In another New York City Police Department [NYPD] "service as a detective" case, Finelli v Bratton, 298 A.D.2d 197, the issue was whether it was arbitrary and capricious for NYPD to determine that service by former Transit Authority [TAPD] police officer Nicholas G. Finelli did not qualify as "detective track" service.

According to the decision, such credit was properly denied since it was not established that Finelli performed investigative duties comparable to those performed in units given a detective track status after the TAPD's merger with the NYPD. In addition, the court said that detective track credit was properly refused for periods during which police officers were suspended from duty or on restricted, limited or modified duty.
 
* The Rules of the State Civil Service Commission specifically provide that "[e]xcept as otherwise specified in any particular rule, these rules shall apply to positions and employments in the classified service of the State and public authorities, public benefit corporations and other agencies for which the Civil Service Law is administered by the State Department of Civil Service” [4 NYCR 1.1]. However, rules adopted by a local commission or personnel officer are subject to the approval of the State Civil Service Commission [see generally Civil Service Law §20].

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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