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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Delaying the processing of an application for retirement and the denial of “retiree benefits” because of alleged employee misconduct


Delaying the processing of an application for retirement and the denial of “retiree benefits” because of alleged employee misconduct
Union Endicott Cent. Sch. Dist. v Endicott Teachers' Assn., 2013 NY Slip Op 50833(U), Supreme Court, Broome County [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports.]

State Supreme Court Judge Ferris D. Lebous’ decision in this action considered issues raised by the union on behalf of a retired teacher concerning the school district’s delay in processing her application for retirement benefits and her eligibility for retiree health insurance under a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The events leading to this proceeding was summarized by the court as follows. :

A teacher for the Union-Endicott Central School District became “a person of interest” in an investigation involving stolen school property. The teacher, however, tendered her resignation before the investigation was completed. Although the resignation indicated that the teacher intended to resign and retire at the end of the academic year, the Board of Education decided to delay the processing of the teacher’s application for retirement pending determinations on criminal charges and disciplinary charges.

The Association filed grievances challenging the Board of Education's decision to delay the processing of the teacher’s retirement ("Grievance No.1") and its denial of the teacher’s retiree health insurance benefits ("Grievance No.2"). Judge Lebous stayed the arbitration of Grievance #1 as “not arbitrable,” but ordered the arbitration of Grievance #2 (see Union Endicott Cent. School Dist. v Endicott Teachers' Assn., 25 Misc 3d 1210 [A]).

The Appellate Division affirmed the court's rulings, holding that arbitration could not be compelled with respect to Grievance # 1 [see http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2009/2009_01060.htm] and that Grievance #2, the grievance challenging the denial of the teacher’s health insurance benefits upon retirement, was arbitrable [see http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_07647.htm].

Ultimately, the arbitration hearing on the issue of the teacher’s eligibility for health insurance benefits upon retirement was conducted and arbitrator Louis Patack issued an Opinion and Award in favor of the teacher. The school district then filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 75 seeking a court order vacating the arbitrator’s award.

As phrased by the court, “The School District's primary argument in support of it's petition is that the arbitrator failed to consider the issue of [the teacher’s] misconduct” in terms of  “the faithless servant doctrine,” contending that the Appellate Division had “instructed” the consideration of that issue.  The School District claimed that this failure on the part of the arbitrator constituted “misconduct in rendering his award and constitutes a ground for vacating the same under CPLR §7511 (b) (1) (i) and (iii).”

Noting that the Appellate Division “… did not mandate that the arbitrator apply the doctrine but merely stated that '[t]he issue of the effect, if any, of [the teacher’s] alleged misconduct on her entitlement to benefits goes to the merits of her grievance, not to its arbitrability,'” Further, Judge Lebous rejected the School District's representation that the arbitrator failed to consider or address the faithless servant doctrine. Rather, said the court, the record “clearly reflects that the arbitrator did considerwhether the doctrine applied under the CBA and held that it did not.”

In addition the court commented that “as outlined by the Association,” the parties had entered into a stipulation at the arbitration hearing that the School District would offer evidence of [the teacher’s] alleged misconduct only if the arbitrator determined that the doctrine applied and because he did not so rule no such evidence was accepted.

Accordingly, the court denied the school district’s petition to vacate or modify the arbitration award and, in addition, denied its application for a stay of enforcement and implementation of the arbitration award.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_50833.htm

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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