Thursday, August 15, 2013

Court holds that termination of an employee after 19 years of employment because of an isolated incident of misconduct shocking to one's sense of fairness”


Court holds that termination of an employee after 19 years of employment because of an isolated incident of misconduct shocking to one's sense of fairness”
2013 NY Slip Op 51322(U), Supreme Court, Dutchess County, Justice James D. Pagones [Not selected for publications in the Official Reports.].

An employee [Petitioner] was served with a number disciplinary charges pursuant to Civil Service Law §75, found guilty of such charges and dismissed from his position.

In a previous proceeding, the Appellate Division found "that substantial evidence in the record supports the determination of [the appointing authority] that Petitioner was guilty of charges one, two, and three…” Accordingly, Justice Pagones said that in the action before him there was no issue of fact as to Petitioner’s guilt as to charges one, two and three. However, said Justice Pagones, “[t]his Court must now look specifically to the offense(s) and determine whether or not the penalty, termination, shocks the judicial conscience."

The court concluded that although the facts and the charges as sustained by the Appellate Division, “while serious, do not fit the penalty of termination.”

In brief, Petitioner was observed “consuming a beer and a shot of liquor” from approximately 1:40 p.m. until 2:40 p.m during his workday, at which point Petitioner returned to work. "This one hour time frame," said the court, "has now cost [Petitioner] his job and his benefits associated with the position."

Recognizing that Petitioner committed a serious infraction, Justice Pagones ruled that “the penalty of termination of his employment is so disproportionate to the offense committed as be shocking to one's sense of fairness” considering that there was no evidence in the record before the Court that Petitioner “during his nineteen (19) years of employment with [employer] had presented a disciplinary problem or that the incident was anything but isolated.”

Justice Pagones then remitted the matter to the appointing authority for the imposition of a lesser penalty and “held in abeyance pending submissions by [Petitioner] and [appointing authority] of a computation of the value of [Petitioner's] full back pay and benefits less any compensation derived from other employment or any unemployment benefits received from September 9, 2010 until now.”

N.B. With respect to the amount of the back pay to be awarded in the event a discharged employee is reinstated by action of a civil service commission or personnel officer or a court, prior to its amendment in 1985 Civil Service Law §§76 and 77 provided that the amount of back pay due an individual found to have been unlawfully terminated from his or her position was to be reduced by the amount of compensation he or she may have earned in any other employment or occupation following his or her termination, together with any unemployment insurance benefits he or she may have received during that period.

In 1985 §§76 and 77 of the Civil Service Law, which apply to certain employees in the classified service of a public employer, were amended [Chapter 851, Laws of 1985] and currently provide that an employee reinstated pursuant to either of these subdivisions is to receive the salary to which he or she would have otherwise been entitled, less the amount of any unemployment insurance benefit that he or she may have received during such period. The clause providing for a "reduction" in the amount to be paid for any compensation earned in other employment or occupation following his or her termination was eliminated.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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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/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions 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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