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May 18, 2012

Characterizing a complaint as a violation of civil service rules does not avoid having to seek relief pursuant to the contract grievance procedure

Characterizing a complaint as a violation of civil service rules does not avoid having to seek relief pursuant to the contract grievance procedure
Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff's Assn., Inc. v County of Montgomery, 57 AD3d 1061

Cathy Anderson and Grace De Waal Malefyt each worked for a period of time in the title of "part-time" correction officer in Montgomery County. During their respective periods of employment in the title of part-time correction officer, both voluntarily and regularly “worked in excess of 20 hours per week and, in fact, in excess of 40 hours per week” without complaint nor did the Association ever file complaints on their behalf or sought to obtain additional compensation or benefits for them during this period.

Anderson and Waal Malefyt were appointed "full time" correction officers in 2000 and 2003 respectively.

In March 2004, the Association sued, seeking monetary relief in the form of retroactive benefits under the collective bargaining agreement. Supreme Court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action.

In addressing the Association’s appeal from the dismissal of its petition by Supreme Court, the Appellate Division ruled that “Having failed to avail themselves of the grievance procedures outlined under the very collective bargaining agreement on which they now rely for monetary relief, [Anderson and Waal Malefyt] and the Association failed to exhaust administrative remedies and are precluded from pursuing this action.”

The Appellate Division noted that in an effort to avoid the rejection of its appeal because of the failure to exhaust administrative remedies, Anderson and Waal Malefyt and the Association try to disavow their reliance on the collective bargaining agreement by claiming that “they are not seeking to enforce the collective bargaining agreement but, rather, are alleging a violation of the County Civil Service Rules and Regulations.”

The court said that the petition filed in Supreme Court “belies this notion” as it clearly alleged that County defendants “have breached the terms of the collective bargaining agreement . . . in that they, as [j]oint [e]mployers, denied [p]laintiffs . . . benefits afforded by the collective bargaining agreement to full-time employees while holding the title of ‘[p]art-time [c]orrection [o]fficer’” and “denied the benefits contained in the collective bargaining agreement, including, but not limited to longevity, health insurance, vacation leave, holiday pay, sick leave, personal time, and increased wages.”

Thus, said the Appellate Division, it is clear that the true nature of this action is for breach of contract. Further, said the court, “even if we were to view the complaint as simply alleging a violation of the County Civil Service Rules and Regulations,” the result would be the same “as the monetary remedy for this perceived violation is still being sought under the auspices of the collective bargaining agreement, thus leading to the same result; namely, that [Anderson and Waal Malefyt] and the Association were still required to avail themselves of the grievance and arbitration procedures outlined under the agreement with the failure to do so being fatal to the requested relief.”

The full text of the decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2008/2008_09519.htm


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