Best Lawblog Contest for 2017 now being conducted by The Legal Institute

From now until
September 15th, 2017, Lawblog fans can nominate their favorite blogs and bloggers for inclusion in the voting round of 2017. As in previous years, the nomination process is competitive, meaning the more nominations a blog receives, the more likely it is to be included in the public voting stage of the contest.

To access the link to the nomination form, click on:

https://www.theexpertinstitute.com/blog-contest/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=CTA&utm_campaign=blog-contest-8.14.2017-general

Friday, January 27, 2012

Enforcing disciplinary settlement agreements

Enforcing disciplinary settlement agreements
Lyons v Whitehead, 2 AD3d 638

The Appellate Division's decision in the Lyons case demonstrates the importance of making certain that the terms and conditions of a disciplinary settlement agreement clearly indicate the expectations of the parties.

An employee at the Letchworth Developmental Disabilities Service, and the Director of Letchworth, had entered into a disciplinary settlement agreement that provided that the employee would participate in a treatment program to treat her abuse of prescription drugs. The settlement required the employee to follow the program's attendance requirement, and to complete the program.

The agreement also provided that the employee would be placed on "general probation status" for one year, and that her employment could be terminated for a violation of her probation without any further hearing "except for time and attendance infractions".

The employee failed to attend a scheduled "medication course." The Director viewed this as a breach of the Settlement Agreement and terminated the employee's employment. Acting on behalf of the employee, the Civil Service Employee's Association, Inc., sued. They asked for a court order reinstating the employee to her position. CSEA argued that the employee’s failure to attend the medication course was a "time and attendance infraction" and thus she could not be summarily terminated under the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

Although the Supreme Court directed that the employee be restored to her employment, the Appellate Division reversed and remanded the case to the lower court to determine whether the employee’s failure to attend the "medication course" was a "time and attendance infraction" under the Settlement Agreement.

The Appellate Division ruled that "[b]ecause the Settlement Agreement is a contract between the parties, it must be construed according to ordinary contract law." Accordingly, the court must "determine the intention of the parties as derived from the language employed in the contract", and it "should strive to give a fair and reasonable meaning to the language used," citing Abiele Construction v New York City School Construction Authority, 91 NY2d 1.

It is clear that the appellant could terminate the employee's employment for a violation of her probation, "except for time and attendance infractions." Was employee’s absence from the "medication course" a breech of the Settlement Agreement?

The Director maintained that attending the medication course "was part of the treatment program" that the employee agreed to attend as part of the Settlement Agreement. CSEA, on the other hand, argued that it was "a mandatory course for all employees working at [the employee’s]salary grade and title for recertification to perform the duties of dispensing medication to patients" and thus her absence was a "time and attendance" problem excluded under the Settlement Agreement.

The court decided that the nature of the medication course could not be determined from the record and therefore it could not decide whether or not the employee’s failure to attend it was a "time and attendance infraction" or a breach of the disciplinary settlement agreement.

Thus, said the court, "the matter must be remitted to the Supreme Court, for a hearing on the question of whether the medication course was the same as the treatment program, and if not, whether the employee's  absence falls within the category of "time and attendance infractions." The Appellate Division said that the lower court "had to make a new determination" based on its answer to these questions.

The basic idea underlying the Lyons decision is that the court must interpret and apply the terms set out in a disciplinary settlement agreement precisely. The decision in Taylor v Cass, 
122 A.D.2d 885, illustrates this point.

A former County employee, won reinstatement with full retroactive salary and contract benefits after a court found that he was improperly dismissed while serving a six-month disciplinary probation.

The disciplinary settlement provided that the County could terminate the employee without any hearing if, in the opinion of the employee’s superior, the employee’s job performance was "adversely affected by his intoxication on the job during the next six months."

The employee, while serving this six-month disciplinary probationary period, was terminated without a hearing after what his supervisor described as the employee’s "failing to give a fair day's work" and "sleeping during scheduled working hours".

The employee challenged his dismissal and won reinstatement with back pay. Why? The Appellate Division decided that the employee’s dismissal was improper because he was not summarily terminated for the sole reason specified in the disciplinary settlement agreement: intoxication while on the job.

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/

Caution:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.

THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

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 in this blog is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader should seek such advice from a competent professional.

Items published in NYPPL may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written permission to copy and distribute such material. Send your request via e-mail to publications@nycap.rr.com

Copyright© 1987 - 2017 by the Public Employment Law Press.



___________________



N.B. From time to time a political ad or endorsement may appear in the sidebar of this Blog. NYPPL does not have any control over such posting.

_____________________

.