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June 21, 2012

Employee terminated after being found guilty of failing to follow proper procedure

Employee terminated after being found guilty of failing to follow proper procedure

Matter of Thomas v County of Rockland, Dept. of Hosps., 55 AD3d 745

A registered nurse at the Summit Park Hospital of the Rockland County Department of Hospitals was served with disciplinary charges alleging misconduct in that she failed to follow proper procedures and she failed to report her alleged error concerning the event.

The hearing officer found the Nurse guilty of all of the charges filed against her and recommended that she be terminated. The Department adopted the findings and recommendation of the hearing officer and dismissed Thomas from her position.

Dismissing the nurse’s appeal, the Appellate Division said that:

1. "The review of administrative determinations in employee disciplinary cases made as a result of a hearing required by Civil Service Law §75 is limited to a consideration of whether the determination is supported by substantial evidence."

2. "Moreover, it is the function of the administrative agency or the Hearing Officer, not the reviewing court, to weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses and determine which testimony to accept and which to reject."

3. "An administrative penalty must be upheld unless it is so disproportionate to the offense as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness,' thus constituting an abuse of discretion as a matter of law’."

In this instance, said the court, the determination that the nurse was guilty of misconduct by failing to properly utilize a defibrillator machine during a "code blue," and then did not report her error, is supported by substantial evidence.

Citing Pell v Board of Education, 34 NY2d at 240, the court said that “it cannot be concluded, ‘as a matter of law, that the penalty of [termination] shocks the judicial conscience.’”

The full text of the decision is posted on the Internet at: 

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