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June 6, 2012

Union presence during an interrogation of a unit member by the appointing authority

Union presence during an interrogation of a unit member by the appointing authority
Seabrook v City of New York, 57 AD3d 232

Norman Seabrook, individually and as President of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, challenged the policy of not allowing an employee to consult with a union representative after a question is posed and before an answer must be given, at an interrogation conducted pursuant to [New York City] Mayoral Executive Order No. 16.

Mayoral Executive Order 16 requires city employees to report allegations of corruption to City's Department of Investigation.

The exclusion of union representatives, said the court, "ensures that the charges will be probed confidentially and professionally by investigators independent of the employee's own agency and superiors."

Holding that this policy “was reasonably designed to promote truthful responses by discouraging coaching,” the Appellate Division concluded that such action did not deprive the employee of his right to union representation under Civil Service Law §75(2) or National Labor Relations Bd. v J. Weingarten, Inc. (420 US 251 [1975]).

A similar issue was addressed by the Appellate division in City of Rochester v Public Employment Relations Board, 15 AD3d 922, Leave to appeal denied, 4 N.Y.3d 710. In Rochester the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, held that PERB abused its discretion when it decided that the City of Rochester committed an improper employer practice in violation of Civil Service Law §209-a(1)(a) (The Taylor Law) by denying city police officers, who were union members, access to union representation during a criminal investigation interview.

The Fourth Department said that "PERB abused its discretion in expanding a public employee's rights to include the right to have a union representative present during a criminal investigation" as New York State "has a strong public policy that prohibits union interference with criminal investigations."

The full text of the Seabrook decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2008/2008_09471.htm

The text of Executive Order 16 is posted on the Internet at:

 

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