Best Lawblog Contest for 2017 now being conducted by The Legal Institute

From now until
September 15th, 2017, Lawblog fans can nominate their favorite blogs and bloggers for inclusion in the voting round of 2017. As in previous years, the nomination process is competitive, meaning the more nominations a blog receives, the more likely it is to be included in the public voting stage of the contest.

To access the link to the nomination form, click on:

https://www.theexpertinstitute.com/blog-contest/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=CTA&utm_campaign=blog-contest-8.14.2017-general

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Internal Revenue Service to host a free “Online Presentation” for government employers rehiring former employees


Internal Revenue Service to host a free “Online Presentation” for government employers rehiring former employees
Source: The Internal Revenue Service 

The Internal Revenue Service [IRS] advises that the payroll tax treatment of a former government employee returning to work for the same entity may be different than it was prior to their retirement or separation. The "Online Presentation" [This presentation ] will help government employers understand how to comply with "the complicated and often misunderstood tax implications of hiring a former employee."

The presentation will address 

1. Section 218 Agreements [see below];

2. The roles the IRS, Social Security Administration and the National Conference of State Social Security Administrators have in determining the employment tax classification of a rehired annuitant;

3. Guidelines and examples on how to approach different rehired annuitant scenarios; and

4. How to seek assistance;

The presentation will be offered August 15, 2013 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time

Click here to register for this event. IRS suggests registering “as soon as possible because space is limited.”

Please send any questions you may have concerning this presentation via e-mail to the Internal Revenue Service at  te.ge.fslg.outreach@irs.gov

The following has been adopted from an IRS Section 218 Agreements and Social Security Coverage posting on the Internet

The IRS advises that a state and local government employees may be covered for social security and Medicare either by mandatory coverage, or under a Section 218 Agreement between the state and the Social Security Administration. Under some circumstances, an employee may be excluded from social security or Medicare, or both.

Sometimes, notes the IRS, employers fail to properly apply the terms of coverage to their employees. This leads to incorrect reporting, including non-reporting or erroneous coverage. Once incorrect reporting occurs it will often continue until the Social Security Administration or the IRS becomes involved; typically, during claims processing or examinations and audits.

Social security coverage can vary widely within a state or even a local area. IRS cautions public employers not to make an assumption about Section 218 coverage for an entity and whether it is in compliance with all applicable laws merely because of the status of a similar entity, either in the same or a different state.

For Section 218 coverage questions, public employers should contact its state Social Security Administrator (see www.ncsssa.org). For mandatory coverage questions, public employers should contact an IRS FSLG Specialist (see www.irs.gov/govts for a directory).

Another resource: The SSA State and Local Government Employers website at www.ssa.gov/slge.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Issued during the week ending July 27, 2013 [Click on text highlighted in bold to access the full report] 

DiNapoli Applauds NYSE Euronext for Joining the United Nations’ Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Wednesday commended NYSE Euronext, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), for joining the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative. NYSE Euronext made the announcement Wednesday at an event held at the NYSE with DiNapoli, NYSE Euronext CEO Duncan L. Niederauer and United Nations Secretary–General Ban Ki–moon.


DiNapoli: State Overpaid $7.8 Million For Hospital Admissions

The state Department of Health improperly paid hospitals $7.8 million for lengthy acute care admissions because hospitals billed Medicaid for higher levels of care than was actually delivered to patients, according to an auditreleased Thursday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.


DiNapoli: OPWDD Overpaid Contractor $1.1 Million

The state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) overpaid a contractor by more than $1.1 million because it based payments on budgeted, rather than actual expenses, according to an auditreleased Friday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli’s auditors raised concerns that if OPWDD continues to pay contractors based on budgeted rather than actual cost, millions of dollars in additional overpayments could be made to contractors.


DiNapoli: Economic Recovery Helps Balance New York City Budget

A strong economy, bolstered by job gains that have outpaced the nation, have helped balance the New York City Fiscal Year 2014 budget and maintained services at current levels without raising taxes, according to a reviewof the city’s financial plan released Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Financial Control Board by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli cautioned that despite smaller out–year budget gaps, significant risks to the budget remain.


The appointing authority is not required to read every page of the transcript taken at a disciplinary hearing

The appointing authority is not required to read every page of the transcript taken at a disciplinary hearing
31 AD3d 860

The Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed the termination of a State Trooper after the Trooper was being found guilty of making unwanted sexual advances involving two female coworkers, rejecting his contention that the appointing authority “blindly accepted” the findings and recommendation of the disciplinary hearing Board rather than undertake an independent review of the evidence.

Significantly, the court said that the appointing authority was not required to read all 1,228 pages of the hearing transcript and each document submitted in the course of the hearing, citing Matter of Taub v Pirnie, 3 NY2d 188, 195 [1957).

In this instance, the court commented, the Trooper failed to demonstrate that the appointing authority "made no independent appraisal and reached no independent conclusion”, quoting Matter of Kilgus v Board of Estimate of City of N.Y., 308 NY 620, 628 [1955].

The Appellate Division also ruled that charges filed against the Trooper were not time barred since the Civil Service Law provides an exception to an 18-month statute of limitations in which to commence disciplinary proceedings if the charged misconduct "would, if proved in a court of appropriate jurisdiction, constitute a crime" (Civil Service Law §75[4]).

The court determined that misconduct alleged in one charge filed against the Trooper, if proven in a court of law, would constitute the crime of gender abuse in the third degree (see Penal Law §130.55) and thus this charge fell within the statutory exception and was not time barred.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2006/2006_05274.htm

Out of Title Work

Out of Title Work
Lake City Police Club v City of Oswego, 31 AD3d 1159

Noting the well-established principle that out-of-title work creates no automatic right to reclassification, the Appellate Division, citing Matter of McGuinness v New York State Off. of Ct. Admin., 61 NY2d 279, 281, held that the City of Oswego was not required to designate an employee of the Oswego County District Attorney’s office a detective notwithstanding the fact that the individual had been working out-of-title as a detective in the District Attorney’s office.

Further, the court obseved that “Civil Service Law §58(5) expressly provides, in relevant part, that it shall not apply to "the investigatory personnel of the office of the district attorney in any county.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2006/2006_05442.htm


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Project Sunlight to give public access to database of who appears before state departments and agencies

Project Sunlight to give public access to database of who appears before state departments and agencies
Source: Office of the Governor

On July 26, 2013 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the launching of the Project Sunlight database on the Internet at projectsunlight.ny.gov, a searchable database providing an in-depth view of the individuals and entities appearing before New York State government entities concerning non-legislative matters

Project Sunlight lists meetings between government officials and outside individuals, entities, and their internal or external representatives related to state procurement, rate-making, regulatory matters, agency-based judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, and the adoption or repeal of rules and regulations.

Lobbying appearances related to passage of the budget or legislation are not covered by Project Sunlight, as they are already the subject of regulation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics pursuant to the State’s lobbying laws. .

 A Project Sunlight Policy was developed to facilitate reporting and to clarify what is and is not reported in the database:
Meetings Included in Project Sunlight:
Meetings NOT Included in Project Sunlight:
Appearances related to state procurement
Appearances for the sole purpose of requesting information
Appearances related to rate-making
Written or telephone communications
Appearances related to regulatory matters
Appearances regarding legislation or the budget, or any intergovernmental interactions
Appearances related to agency-based judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings
Appearances that are treated as confidential pursuant to federal or state law, or which, if disclosed, could endanger the life or safety of any person.
Appearances related to adoption or repeal of rules and regulations
Participation in meetings that are open to the public (and thus already reported elsewhere)

In 2007, then Attorney General Cuomo launched a Project Sunlight initiative now known as NYOpenGovernment.com to create the state’s first-ever online database of information related to campaign finance, lobbying activity, state spending, and state contracts.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Educator claiming a preferred list should be used to fill a vacancy has the burden of demonstrating that the two positions are similar within the meaning of Education Law §3013


Educator claiming a preferred list should be used to fill a vacancy has the burden of demonstrating that the two positions are similar within the meaning of Education Law §3013
Matter of Michelle McDougall and the Schuylerville Central School District, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision 16505

Several positions were abolished by the school board due to budget reductions. The position encumbered by Michelle McDougall, a K-6 assistant principal, was among those abolished and her name was placed on a preferred list.

Ms. McDougall subsequently applied for a vacancy the position of K-12 Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development [Director] in response to a notice of vacancy posted by the school district. When another applicant was selected for the position, Ms. McDougall appealed the board’s action, contending that “the duties of her position as a K-6 assistant principal were substantially similar to the duties of the vacant Director position and pursuant to Education Law §3013, she was entitled to be reinstated to that position.*

The Commissioner of Education dismissed Ms. McDougall’s appeal on both procedural and substantive grounds.

As to the procedural issue, the Commissioner said that Ms. McDougall failed to “join necessary parties.” A party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal in favor of Ms. McDougall is a necessary party and must be joined as such.

Although Ms. McDougall had named “John/Jane Doe as a person to be subsequently named” in the caption, the Commissioner said that the record indicates that at the time Ms. McDougall commenced her appeal, an individual had been appointed by the board to the Director position. As that individual’s rights would be adversely affected if there was a decision in favor of Ms. McDougall as a result of her appeal and that individual had not been named or served with this appeal, the Commissioner said that he must dismiss the appeal for failure to join necessary parties.

However, said the Commissioner, Ms. McDougall's appeal would have been dismissed on the merits had it not been necessary to dismiss it because a necessary party had not been joined.

Noting that Ms. McDougall did not dispute board’s decision to abolish her position as K-6 assistant principal, the Commissioner rejected Ms. McDougall s contention that she was entitled to be reappointed to the Director position.

The Commissioner explained that although Education Law §3013(3)(a) governs the rights of a former employee to re-employment, it provides, in pertinent part, that in the event office or position is abolished … the person filling such position at the time of its abolishment … shall be placed upon a preferred eligible list of candidates for appointment to a vacancy that then exists or that may thereafter occur in an office or position similar to the one which such person filled ….”

Accordingly, in order for Ms. McDougall to be entitled to appointment to a vacant position from the preferred list, the vacant position must be similar to that of her former position. The test to ascertain whether the two positions are “similar” is whether more than 50 percent of the duties of the vacant position are those which were performed by Ms. McDougall in her former position.

Ms. McDougall has the burden of proving that a majority of the duties of the Director position are similar to those of her former position, assistant principal, K-6. Although, explained the Commissioner, the standard of what is similar is flexible and is not to be applied mechanically, the two positions must be in the same tenure area.

Ms. McDougall’s former position was in the K-6 assistant principal tenure area and the Director position is in the K-12 Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development tenure area, the Commissioner said that Ms. McDougall would have no rights under Education Law §2510(3)(a) to be appointed to the Director position if it is a different tenure area.

Ms. McDougall had the burden of establishing that the Director position is in the K-6 assistant principal tenure area. Finding that she had failed to meet her burden of establishing that the duties of the position of Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development are similar to those of a K-6 assistant principal, for purposes of Education Law §§2510(3) (a) and 3013(3) (a).

Further, the Commissioner noted that “it appears from the record that [Ms. McDougall] spent 75% of the time in her position as an assistant principal evaluating staff and disciplining students while less than 30% of the Director’s time will be spent on these functions.”

The Commissioner concluded that Ms. McDougall did not met her burden of proving that the duties of the two positions were similar within the meaning of Education Law §3013(3)(a) or that the two positions were in the same tenure area. Accordingly, the Commissioner ruled that Ms. McDougall was not entitled to appointment to the position of K-12 Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development from the preferred list.

* Civil Service Law §81 sets out the rights of employees in the classified service with respect to use of preferred lists for the purpose of reinstatement of employees laid-off from their position to the same or a similar position, or a position in a lower grade.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.counsel.nysed.gov/Decisions/volume53/documents/d16505.pdf

=========================

The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions is available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click On http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/for additional information about this electronic reference manual.

=========================


Terminated employee’s work-related dishonest constitutes disqualifying misconduct for the purposed of eligibiity for unemployment insurance benefits

Terminated employee’s work-related dishonest constitutes disqualifying misconduct for the purposed of eligibiity for unemployment insurance benefits
2013 NY Slip Op 05499, Appellate Division, Third Department

The claimant for unemployment insurance was terminated from her position because she [1] took a computer cord from the workplace without permission so that she could use it on her personal computer at home and [2] using the employer's company cellular phone for her personal use in violation of the employer's policy, causing the employer to incur additional charges for the excess minutes.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board disqualified her from receiving benefits, holding that the claimant was terminated from her employment for disqualifying misconduct.

The Appellate Division sustained the Board’s determination, noting that "An employee's apparent dishonesty, including the theft of property, has been held to constitute misconduct disqualifying him or her from receiving unemployment.”

Under the circumstances, said the court, substantial evidence exists in the record supporting the Board's ruling that claimant's employment "ended under disqualifying circumstances."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


A reprimand “to be expunged” from the employee’s personnel record if he or she does not repeat to offense within a specified period of time is not a penalty authorized by law

A reprimand “to be expunged” from the employee’s personnel record if he or she does not repeat to offense within a specified period of time is not a penalty authorized by law
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision 10933

A §3020-a disciplinary panel found a teacher guilty of insubordination as the result of her refusal to act as a chaperone at a school event. The penalty imposed by the panel: “… a reprimand, to be expunged from (the teacher’s personnel) records if for the next two years there are no further disciplinary problems of a similar nature”.

The District appealed the penalty imposed by the panel to the Commissioner of Education, contending that such a penalty was not authorized by §3020-a of the Education Law.

The Commissioner agreed, finding that although the penalty to be imposed, a reprimand, was authorized by §3020-a, the disciplinary panel lacked any authority to direct the District to later expunge the reprimand from the teacher’s file for “good behavior.” The Commissioner then exercised his authority to impose an appropriate disciplinary penalty on the employee and ruled that a reprimand would be appropriate under the circumstances.

The Attorney General has considered the question of an employer to remove a reprimand from an employee’s personnel file. In Opinion of the Attorney General 81-28, the Attorney General said that an appointing authority that wishes to clear the record of an employee who had in the past misbehaved but who has since performed well should have that option, observing that “public policy is not served by forever blighting the employee’s personnel file.”

Accordingly, although a §3020-a disciplinary panel may not direct the appointing authority to “remove” any reference to the penalty from the individual’s personnel file, the appointing authority, in the exercise of its discretion, may elect to do so.

Presumably the same rationale would be applied with respect to penalties set out in other statutes providing for initiating disciplinary action against an employee for alleged misconduct such as §75 of the Civil Service Law, §155 of the Town Law, §137 of the Second Class Cities Law and §8-804 of the Village Law.

However, no such limitation would apply with respect to penalties imposed by an arbitrator pursuant to a negotiated alternative to a statutory disciplinary procedure as the arbitrator is generally permitted to impose such penalty as he or she deems appropriate under the circumstances.

==================

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 600+ page guide to penalties imposed on public employees in New York State found guilty of selected acts of misconduct. For more information, click on http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com/


==================

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Civil Service Law §106 does not authorize an individual to maintain a private cause of action based on alleged violation of the statute

Civil Service Law §106 does not authorize an individual to maintain a private cause of action based on alleged violation of the statute
Goddard v Martino, 2013 NY Slip Op 23240, Supreme Court, Dutchess County, Justice Peter M. Forman

Donald J. Goddard was appointed as a police officer in the Town of Hyde Park Police Department in 1986 and ultimately was permanently appointed to the position of Lieutenant in 2004. He was subsequently provisionally appointed to serve as Chief of Police pending his passing and qualifying for appointment from a promotion list for Chief.

In the words of Justice Peter M. Forman, “the relationship between [Goddard] and the newly-elected Town Board quickly became toxic” and Goddard subsequently submitted a letter expressing his intent “to retire from the Town of Hyde Park Police Department effective April 10, 2010.”

Goddard sued the Town alleging that:

1. He submitted this retirement letter because (a) he had become aware that the Town Board was contemplating abolishing the position of Lieutenant, and (b) he was advised by a member of the Town Board that he would never be appointed as the permanent Chief of Police, regardless of his performance on the civil service examination and “felt compelled to retire in order to preserve his health benefits, which would be forfeited if his employment ended due to termination rather than retirement;” and

2. The Town Board abolished the Lieutenant position in order to prevent him from being reinstated to that position once the permanent Chief of Police position was filled. 

Although the Town Board asserted that the Lieutenant position was being abolished for financial reasons, Goddard alleges that this financial justification was a pretext, and that "the Town Board was manipulating the civil service system in order to prevent [Goddard] from being reinstated as Lieutenant."

Ultimately Goddard filed a notice of claim with the Town alleging that the Town had “obstructed or defeated his civil service rights in violation of Civil Service Law §106.” Following a hearing conducted with respect to the notice of claim filed pursuant to General Municipal Law §50-h, Goddard commenced the instant litigation asserting a private cause of action based upon Town’s alleged violation of Civil Service Law §106.

Civil Service Law §106, in pertinent part, makes it a misdemeanor to defeat, deceive or obstruct the civil service rights of any person who seeks appointment, promotion, or reinstatement to a covered civil service position. However, notes the opinion, "Civil Service Law §106 does not expressly make a private cause of action available to individuals who believe that their civil service rights have been violated."

Addressing the Town’s motion seeking summary judgment dismissing Goddard’s complaint on the grounds that no private cause of action is available under Civil Service Law §106, Justice Forman said that a petitioner had to satisfy three tests to maintain his or her cause of action based on alleged violations of Civil Service Law §106.

The courts said that “When assessing whether a statute provides an implied right to a private cause of action, "the essential factors to be considered are: (1) whether the plaintiff is one of the class for whose particular benefit the statute was enacted; (2) whether recognition of a private right of action would promote the legislative purpose; and (3) whether creation of such a right would be consistent with the legislative scheme."

Commenting that the first factor is the one that is most easily satisfied, the court noted that “When a statute seeks to deter certain conduct, the second factor will be satisfied upon a determination that a private cause of action for injuries arising from this prohibited conduct would further the statute's deterrent goal.”

Goddard, said the court, clearly falls within the class of people for whose benefit Civil Service Law §106 was enacted. Recognizing a private cause of action under Civil Service Law §106 would also clearly advance the statute's deterrent goal. Therefore, said the court, the first two prongs of this three-prong test were satisfied.

The third factor, generally recognized as the most important factor, is whether a private right of action is consistent with the legislative scheme.

In Justice Forman’s view, there was no clear evidence that the Legislature intended to expose municipalities to the risk of financial liability for a violation of Civil Service Law §106. Rather, said the court, “Civil Service Law §102(3) squarely places the authority for enforcement of Civil Service Law §106 on the appropriate municipal civil service commission,” thus precluding an aggrived individual from bringing a private cause of action seeking redress of his or her grievance.

Justice Forman, upon reading §102(3) and §106 together, concluded that “the Legislature intended to limit enforcement of Civil Service law §106 to criminal proceedings (to punish past violations), and to actions by the appropriate municipal civil service commission seeking injunctive relief (to prevent continued violations).”

Noting the Goddard had a number of other legal remedies available to him regarding his allegations concerning his statutory right to his continued employment in the public service, including his claim that he was forced to retire because the Lieutenant position was being abolished, not for the purpose of economy or efficiency, but as a subterfuge to deprive Goddard of his civil service rights, Justice Forman granted the Town’s motion for summary judgment dismissing Goddard’s complaint.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



A school board’s “essential responsibilities” can’t be negotiated away

A school board’s “essential responsibilities” can’t be negotiated away
Sweet Home Central School District v. Sweet Home Education Association, 90 AD2d 683, affd, 58 NY2d 912 

The collective bargaining agreement [CBA] between the Sweet Home Central School District [District] and the Union permitted the District to "transfer" teachers subject to the teacher involved being advised of the reason(s) for the transfer and being given an opportunity to select from among  “current openings” for which the teacher was qualified. The contract also provided that wishes of the teacher were to be taken into consideration to the extent possible.

A music teacher grieved his “involuntary transfer out” as concert band director. The arbitrator directed the District to review the appropriate positions available with him and to permit him to select from among them. He further directed the District to permit the teacher to return to the concert band director position if he wished and the District was to “develop a program, with outside assistance, ‘to assure a smooth functioning’ of the concert band” were he to choose to return.

On appeal the arbitrator’s award was modified by the Appellate Division. The court explained that §1711 of the Education Law gave the Board a non-delegable responsibility to maintain adequate standards in the classroom and the District’s authority to assign and reassign teachers was essential to that responsibility.

“Public policy prevents a school district from bargaining away this responsibility,” said the court. In keeping with this view, the arbitrator was held not to have the power to direct the District to retain the teacher in the position from which he had been reassigned.

The Court then held that the CBA between the District and the Union could (and did) establish procedural rules regulating the District’s right to reassign teachers. That portion of the arbitrator’s award directing the District to comply with the procedural rules to which it had agreed was upheld.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dismissal of disciplinary charges recommended because superior condoned the employee's alleged failure to follow department policy

Dismissal of disciplinary charges recommended because superior condoned the employee's alleged failure to follow department policy
OATH Index No. 866/13

A New York City juvenile counselor was charged with failing to conduct three inspections during a tour or duty as required. 

At the disciplinary hearing, however, the counselor proved that the ”three inspections” requirement had not been enforced by management for many years. 

OATH Administrative Law Judge Alessandra F. Zorgniotti recommended dismissal of charges.

The counselor admitted that she did not make three tours of inspection and testified that the failure to do so was a regular practice caused by an excessive work load.

Judge Zorgniotti found that the counselor had proved her affirmative defense of condonation and waiver by showing that her not making three inspections each tour of duty was condoned by supervisors. Further, said the ALJ, the employer did not show that it placed the counselor on notice that the “three inspection” during a tour of duty policy would be enforced

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/13_Cases/13-866.pdf

An alternative to a principal for each school

An alternative to a principal for each school
Matter of Mennella, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education Number 10851

Although the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education provide that each school in a District shall have assigned to it a qualified principal, waivers from that requirement may be obtained under appropriate circumstances.*

An example of this is found in the Commissioner’s decision in Matter of Mennella.

One issue involved Mennella's seeking an order to restore funds for an abolished position of principal. The District had decided to administer its two smallest elementary schools by assigning one principal and two assistant principals to them.

The Commissioner rejected Mennella's claim that the District could not do so, noting that earlier the District had been granted the required exemption each school have a principal. The Commissioner also noted that the assistant principals involved held valid elementary principal certificates and were qualified to perform the duties assigned to them.

* 8 NYCRR 100.2(a), addressing the administration of elementary and secondary schools, provides, in pertinent part, as follows: “The board of education of each school district shall employ and assign to each school under its supervision a full-time principal holding the appropriate certification as required pursuant to section 80.4(b) of this Title. Upon the submission of evidence that there are circumstances which do not justify the assignment of a principal to a particular school, or that another mode of building administration would be more effective, the commissioner may approve an alternative mode of building administration.”

The threshold decision as to the arbitrability of a matter is to be made by the court absent the parties “clear and unmistakable agreement to arbitrate arbitrability”

The threshold decision as to the arbitrability of a matter is to be made by the court absent the parties “clear and unmistakable agreement to arbitrate arbitrability”
In the Matter of the Arbitration of Sherwood (Kirkpatrick), 2013 NY Slip Op 05372, Appellate Division, Third Department

While a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was in effect, the Dryden Central School District (District) and Dryden Faculty Association (Association) entered into a separate memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which the parties [1] recognized the Association as the bargaining unit representative for all regularly appointed registered professional nurses working in the District, [2] agreed upon the nurses' terms and conditions of employment, and [3] agreed that the terms and conditions set out in the MOU would remain in effect until incorporated into the next collective bargaining agreement following the expiration of the then current CBA

The District subsequently terminated a nurse represented by the Association* and the nurse grieved the District’s action. When the grievance was denied by the District the Association demanded that the matter be submitted to arbitration. In response the District initiated a proceeding to permanently stay arbitration. The Association counterclaimed seeking a court order to compel arbitration.

Supreme Court granted the District’s petition and permanently stayed the arbitration. The Association appealed, contending that an arbitrator, rather than a court, should decide whether the parties' dispute was arbitrable.

The Appellate Division disagreed with the Association, noting that the responsibility for this threshold determination lies with the courts unless the parties have "evinced a clear and unmistakable agreement to arbitrate arbitrability.” Here, said the court, neither the CBA nor the MOU contains any such agreement and thus Supreme Court properly addressed this issue.

The court explained that “It is well settled that ‘[a] party cannot be compelled to arbitrate in the absence of an express, direct and unequivocal agreement to do so,’" citing Matter of Massana Central School District, 82 AD3d 521.

While the CBA provides for arbitration as the final step of the grievance process, the MOU neither contains its own arbitration provisions nor explicitly incorporated those provisions as set forth in the CBA. Although the Association argued that the CBA's arbitration provisions apply to covered nurses as the MOU does not expressly exclude them, this argument, said the Appellate Division, is unsupported by the terms of the MOU and the rules governing contract interpretation.

The Appellate Division noted that the MOU specifically identified selected provisions of the CBA to be applied to covered nurses and set out detailed additional provisions on several other subjects, including procedures for discharging nurses and terminating their employment, but did not include the arbitration provisions. Accordingly, said the court, as the MOU neither mentions arbitration nor indicates that any CBA provisions other than those expressly stated will apply to nurses, read as a whole, the MOU “unambiguously reflects the parties' intention to establish independent terms and conditions of employment for nurses that do not include the CBA's arbitration provisions.”

The bottom line: Absent an "express, direct and unequivocal agreement" to arbitrate this dispute, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court had properly granted the District’s application to permanently stay the arbitration. To hold otherwise, said the court, would violate the basic principle that "courts may not by construction add or excise terms, nor distort the meaning of those used and thereby make a new contract for the parties under the guise of interpreting the writing"

The Appellate Division noted that although the nurse's employment was terminated after the end date specified in the CBA, no new agreement has been negotiated, both the CBA and the MOU remain in effect under the Triborough Doctrine {Civil Service Law §209-a [1] [e]).

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_05372.htm

An employee removed from his or her position by a civil service commission pursuant to Civil Service Law §50.4 is not entitled to a pre-termination hearing

An employee removed from his or her position by a civil service commission pursuant to Civil Service Law §50.4 is not entitled to a pre-termination hearing
95 AD2d 1005

Citing Mingo v Pirnie, 55 NY2d 1019, the Appellate Division ruled that "Contrary to the petitioner’s contention, her status as a permanent appointee in the competitive class of the classified civil service did not entitle her to a mandatory pretermination hearing under Civil Service Law § 75(1)(a), where the Nassau County Civil Service Commission relied upon Civil Service Law § 50(4) in revoking her payroll certification and directing the termination of her employment."

In Mingo a county civil service commission disqualified an employee following his permanent appointment and removed him from his position with the village pursuant to §50.4 of the Civil Service Law. The Commission had determined that the individual had “intentionally made false statements of material facts in his application or (had) attempted to practice (a) deception or fraud in his application”. 

The employee sued, contending that the commission could not disqualify him for employment in the position without first providing him with a pre-termination hearing.

The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, stating that §50.4 “requires no more than that the person be given a written statement of the reasons [for his or her disqualification for employment] and afforded an opportunity to make explanation and to submit facts in opposition to such disqualification. No hearing is required.”

The Commission had found that the employee had falsified his application with respect to his experience and had concealed relevant facts related to his separation from previous employment.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Governor Cuomo announces estate tax refunds available to qualified spouses of same-sex couples

Governor Cuomo announces estate tax refunds available to qualified spouses of same-sex couples

Source: Office of the Governor

On July 23, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Estate Tax refunds are available to qualified spouses of same-sex couples. Refunds may be available as a result of the recent United States Supreme Court decision, United States v. Windsor, in which the Court held that §3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. 

Edie Windsor, a New Yorker, sued the federal government after the Internal Revenue Service denied her refund request for the $363,000 in federal estate taxes she paid after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. She also had filed a protective claim with the New York State Tax Department asking for a similar Estate Tax refund from New York. Generally, a claim for credit or refund of an over-payment of estate tax must be filed by a taxpayer within three years from the date the original return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid. 

Taxpayers believing that they may affected by the Windsor ruling should contact the New York State Taxpayer Information Center at 518-457-5387.

Additional information can be found on the Tax Department’s memorandumon estates of same-sex couples.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board may apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel in denying a claimant UI benefits based on a disciplinary arbitration that led to the claimant’s dismissal

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board may apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel in denying a claimant UI benefits based on a disciplinary arbitration that led to the claimant’s dismissal
2013 NY Slip Op 05280, Appellate Division, Third Department

A claimant for unemployment insurance benefits challenged his dismissal from his position by the employer but an arbitrator concluded that there was just cause for his termination.

Subsequently the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board denied the claimant’s application for unemployment insurance benefits, ruling that he was disqualified from receiving such benefits because he was terminated for disqualifying misconduct. The claimant then appealed the Board’s ruling.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s decision explaining that "as there was a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior [arbitration] proceeding, collateral estoppel effect must be given to the arbitrator's factual findings regarding claimant's misconduct."

As the Board had appropriately taken into account the arbitrator's factual findings and made "an independent evaluation as to whether that conduct constitutes 'misconduct' for the purposes of unemployment insurance" the Appellate Division found no basis to overturn the Board's ruling.

Although the individual contended that “at worst, the alleged conduct constituted an excusable error in judgment,” the Board disagreed.

The decision notes that the individual had been counseled by the employer prior to this incident "for various safety violations" and where the misconduct is potentially detrimental to the employer's best interest may, “as in this instance, be sufficient to constitute disqualifying misconduct.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Contract provision providing for the temporary appointment of a substitute teachers held a waiver of the educator’s statutory entitlement to a permanent appointment

Contract provision providing for the temporary appointment of a substitute teachers held a waiver of the educator’s statutory entitlement to a permanent appointment
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision 10918

The relevant collective bargaining agreement provided that a temporary appointment was to be made when a substitute teacher was to be so employed for more than 40 consecutive days.

When the teacher for whom she was substituting died, the School Board, at the request of the Union to fill the position in accordance with the terms of the CBA, “temporarily appointed” the substitute teacher to the vacancy.

The substitute was subsequently notified that she was not under consideration for permanent appointment. She sued contending that she was a probationer in the vacant position “by operation of law”. 

Following a series of administrative and Court proceedings, the question was remanded to the Commissioner of Education for further consideration.

The Commissioner, in considering the merits of the teacher's appeal, held that although the Board has no authority to make other than probationary appointments to fill permanent vacancies, a teacher may waive the statutory entitlement.

The Commissioner then found that the CBA provision, with which the Board had complied at the request of the Union, provided for a “temporary appointment.” Accordingly, the Commissioner concluded that the CBA’s provision constituted such a waiver and the substitute teacher could not challenge the School Board’s appointing her as a temporary teacher rather than as a permanent appointee subject to the satisfactory completion of a probationary period under the circumstances.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Employee terminated after being found guilty of misuse of funds

Employee terminated after being found guilty of misuse of funds
OATH Index No. 494/13

The New York City Department of Educationcharged a custodial engineer with the misuse of funds. 

OATH Administrative Law Judge Kevin F. Casey found that the custodian failed to repay more than $43,000 he owed to the Department in excess funds, that he wrote a check to the Department for $43,620, knowing that there were insufficient funds in his account to cover the check, and that he overpaid himself by $14,000

The Department apportions funds to custodian engineers based on the square footage of buildings that they maintain. Funds are kept in a custodial bank account which custodian engineers can access online. Custodian engineers must repay the Department any excess funds that they receive each year. In this instance the custodian acknowledged overpaying himself and his staff.

Judge Casey recommended termination of the employee, which recommendation was adopted by the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.
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The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/13_Cases/13-494.pdf

An administrative agency’s rules and regulations must be consistent with and supplemental to the legislation relied upon by the agency for their promulgation

An administrative agency’s rules and regulations must be consistent with and supplemental to the legislation relied upon by the agency for their promulgation
Kigin v State of N.Y. Workers' Compensation Bd., 2013 NY Slip Op 05360, Appellate Division, Third Department

In this challenge to a determination by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, one of the arguments advanced by the claimant denied certain benefits was that the Board lacked the authority to promulgate the regulations and the “incorporated Guidelines” relied upon by the Board for its ruling, contending that they were inconsistent with the enabling legislation and the workers' compensation statutory scheme.

Addressing this argument, the Appellate Division said that “[a]lthough administrative agencies have no inherent legislative power, they have ‘all the powers expressly delegated to [them] by the Legislature and are authorized to ‘fill in the interstices in the legislati[on]’ by promulgating rules and regulations consistent with their enabling legislation.”

Further, said the court, "[I]t is not always necessary that the Legislature provide precise guidelines to an agency charged with carrying out the policies embodied in a legislative delegation of power. In certain technical areas, where flexibility is required to enable an administrative agency to adapt to changing conditions, it is sufficient if the Legislature confers broad power upon the agency to fulfill the policy goals embodied in the statute, leaving it up to the agency itself to promulgate the necessary regulatory details."

Also, said the Appellate Division, courts will uphold regulations that are consistent with and supplemental to the relevant statute “provided they have a rational basis and [are] not unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious or contrary to the statute under which [they were] promulgated."

The Appellate Division ruled that the Board acted within its legislatively conferred authority in this instance.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_05360.htm

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Governor Cuomo announces approval of 2014 health insurance plan rates for New York Health Benefit Exchange

Governor Cuomo announces approval of 2014 health insurance plan rates for New York Health Benefit Exchange

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the Department of Financial Services (DFS) has approved health insurance plan rates for 17 insurers seeking to offer coverage through New York’s Health Benefits Exchange, including eight new entrants into the market that do not currently offer commercial health insurance plans.

In 2012 Governor Cuomo took action to issue an Executive Order establishing the New York Health Benefit Exchange, which is expected to help more than one million uninsured New Yorkers access quality, affordable health care coverage.

The following companies had health insurance plan rates for the health benefits exchange approved today by DFS. The rates approved are subject to final certification of the insurers’ participation in the exchange.

· Aetna
· Affinity Health Plan, Inc.
· American Progressive Life & Health Insurance Company of New York
· Capital District Physicians Health Plan, Inc.
· Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York
· Empire BlueCross BlueShield
· Excellus
· Fidelis Care
· Freelancers Co-Op
· Healthfirst New York
· HealthNow New York, Inc.
· Independent Health
· MetroPlus Health Plan
· MVP Health Plan, Inc.
· North Shore LIJ
· Oscar Health Insurance Co.
· United Healthcare

Enrollment for the exchange begins on October 1, 2013 for coverage that will be effective January 1, 2014.

Additional information about the New York Health Benefit Exchange is available on the Internet at: www.HealthBenefitExchange.ny.gov

An article, Municipalites Need to be Well Positioned in 2013 to Address the Health Care Reform Act, has been posted on the Internet by NYMuniBlog, a LawBlog published by Harris Beach PLLC, a law firm, as a public service, at http://nymuniblog.com/?p=2869


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Internet page dedicated to the Affordable Health Care Act is at: http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/rights/law/index.html




Saturday, July 20, 2013

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Issued during the week ending July 19, 2013 [Click on text highlighted in bold to access the full report] 

A.G. Schneiderman & State Comptroller DiNapoli Announce Arrest of Not–For–Profit Executive in Five–Year Public Corruption Scheme

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Tuesday announced the arrest of a nonprofit executive accused of pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds intended for public services in New York City. The joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and the State Comptroller–s office revealed that Van R. Holmes —— the president of the Young Leaders Institute, Inc. —— stole more than $85,000 by creating dozens of false records and forged documents which he filed with State and City agencies in order to obtain public money.


DiNapoli: Binghamton Facing Fiscal Challenges, But Outlook Improving

The city of Binghamton is grappling with high rates of unemployment and poverty, but its outlook is improving as it builds up reserve funds, according to a fiscal report issued Thursday by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report is part of a series of fiscal profiles on cities across the state.


DiNapoli: Lax Board Oversight Allowed Former Village of Old Field Treasurer to Steal Nearly $60,000

Poor oversight by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Old Field allowed its former Treasurer Andrea Brosnan to steal nearly $60,000 in village funds without detection, according to an auditreleased Wednesday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The findings of the audit were shared with Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota whose office charged Brosnan with second–degree grand larceny, first–degree falsifying business records, defrauding the government and official misconduct on May 22. Criminal proceedings are pending.


DiNapoli: State Tax Receipts Down in June, but Overall State Fiscal Picture Positive

Personal Income Tax and business tax collections were down in June compared to last year, but the state’s General Fund balance ended the month higher than anticipated, in part because of a $250 million regulatory settlement, according to the June cash report released Wednesday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.


DiNapoli Finds Questionable Charges for Rochester Special Education Provider

The Norman Howard School, a Rochester–based special education provider, submitted more than $200,000 in improper charges over a three–year period, mostly for salaries that went to uncertified teachers, according to an auditreleased Tuesday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.


DiNapoli Finds Budgeting Problems at East Ramapo Central School District

Poor financial practices by the East Ramapo Central School District, including inaccurate budget estimates, have left the district with operating deficits for the past two years and could jeopardize future district operations, according to an auditreleased Friday by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.


DiNapoli: State Improperly Overpaid Oneonta Dentist $66,000

The state Department of Health improperly paid an Oneonta dentist $66,402 for 2,361 inflated or questionable Medicaid claims he submitted for unwarranted services, including “behavior management,” and dentures that were not delivered to the recipients, according to an auditreleased Monday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.


DiNapoli Urges President Obama To Direct Federal Agencies To Adopt “Place Of Celebration” Standard For Recognition Of Same–Sex Marriages

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Friday released a letterto President Barack Obama calling on him, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, to direct all federal agencies under his control to adopt a marriage “Place of Celebration” standard. This would require federal agencies and programs to recognize all valid same–sex marriages, regardless of the current residence of the same–sex spouses.


Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Municipal Audits

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Friday announced his office completed audits of:




New leaders of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the Office of Mental Health [OMH] nominated by Governor Cuomo

New leaders of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the Office of Mental Health [OMH] to be nominated by Governor Cuomo

On July 19, 2013 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the appointments of Courtney Burke as the administration’s new Deputy Secretary for Health, Laurie Kelley to serve as the Acting Commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and Dr. Ann Sullivan to serve as the Acting Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health.

The Governor intends to nominate both Ms. Kelley and Dr. Sullivan to serve as Commissioners of OPWDD and OMH, respectively, during the next legislative session. Their nominations are subject to confirmation by the New York State Senate.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Services provided to an educational institution by a student at the institution is not employment for the purposes of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits

Services provided to an educational institution by a student at the institution is not employment for the purposes of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits
Galindo (Board of Higher Educ., City Univ. of N.Y.--Commissioner of Labor), 108 AD3d 906

"Services rendered for an educational institution by a person who is enrolled and is in regular attendance as a student in such an institution" does not constitute employment within the meaning of the Labor Law §511(15) for the purposes of an individual’s eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. Whether a claim for unemployment insurance benefits is within the ambit of this exclusion depends on the facts and circumstances of the employment to determine whether the primary purpose of the work was to earn a living or to further the claimant's education.

A claimant for unemployment insurance benefits challenged the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board’s determination that she was ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

The claimant began working as an office assistant for the City University of New York [CCNY] and about a year later began taking classes at a community college affiliated with CUNY. The claimant continued working full time for CUNY, thereby obtaining a tuition fee waiver.

When the claimant earned her degree, her employment with CUNY “was discontinued by agreement” and she filed for unemployment insurance benefits. The claimant’s application was denied as excluded under Labor Law §511(15) and she appealed the Board’s determination.

The Appellate Division sustained the Board’s ruling, explaining that “the record contains substantial evidence supporting the factual finding of the Board that claimant was ‘in regular attendance as a student’ and, therefore, ineligible for benefits pursuant to the statute.”

Accordingly, the Appellate Division declined to “disturb” the Board’s determination.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_05269.htm

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Employee’s two-day suspension without pay ruled “beyond arbitrary” under the circumstances

Employee’s two-day suspension without pay ruled “beyond arbitrary” under the circumstances
2013 NY Slip Op 51145(U), Supreme Court, New York County [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports]

In this Article 78 Proceeding, the Petitioner asked Supreme Court to annul and rescind the New York City Department of Education’s [DOE] determination that she had administered corporeal punishment to a student and her being suspended without pay for two days as a result of that determination. In addition, Petitioner asked the court [1] to compel DOE “to expunge their files” concerning the event leading to Petitioner’s suspension and [2] her award of back pay and other benefits lost.

The genesis of this action was Petitioner’s receiving a letter from the school principal [Principal] scheduling an appointment to investigate an allegation of corporal punishment made by a parent of one of the students in Petitioner’s class. Petitioner denied the allegations that she had administered corporal punishment to the child.

Principal then notified Petitioner that she was going to refer the allegations to the DOE's Office of Special Investigations [OSI] and Petitioner submitted a written response to Principal in which Petitioner again denied the allegations.

At the conclusion of the school year, Principal told Petitioner that DOE's OSI had not rendered a decision regarding the allegations of corporal punishment nor did the record submitted to Supreme Court contain any information about any investigation or determination by OSI. Subsequently, however, Principal informed Petitioner that she had investigated the complaint, which included interviews with the child’s mother, interviews with students in Petitioner's class who wrote “witness statements,” and the classroom teacher.

The Principal sent Petitioner a “Suspension Letter” stating that:

I have evaluated all of the investigatory results, including your response … and conclude that after completing the investigation, a specific date of occurrence could not be determined. I also could not determine whether or not you have pulled [[the child] by the his neck or shoulders, or pushed him on his back [as his mother alleged]. However based on statements made by some of the students in the class, I conclude that you have grabbed [the student] by the arm and pulled on his sleeves in the past.  

Principal then suspended Petitioner for two days without pay.

After addressing a number of procedural issued, Supreme Court Judge Manuel J. Mendez address the merits of Petitioner’s appeal, finding:

1. The Suspension Letter, the only documentation supplied to the Court recording “DOE's decision,” states that the Principal “was not able to determine the truth regarding any of the allegations made by [the pupil] and his mother.”

2. The Principal’s decision concerning the allegations of corporal punishment were based on the written statements of eight students and the record is silent as to how her discussion with the teacher “factored into her decision.”

3. Seven of the eight written statements submitted by DOE in these proceedings written by “2nd grade special education students ‘include translations' at the bottom whereby someone took it upon themselves to interpret what the unnamed individual concludes the children meant to say.”

4. Four of the seven letters “clearly and unequivocally” state Petitioner never touched the student while three statements mention physical contact between Petitioner and the student, two which state that Petitioner grabbed the student’s arm and the third stated that Petitioner grabbed the student’s clothes. The court noted that there was no description, context, or explanation accompanied these statements.

The court’s conclusion:  “those three written statements were enough for [the principal] to substantiate allegations of corporal punishment against Petitioner and reflect such in Petitioner's permanent record with the DOE.”

Judge Mendez opined that for the Principal to substantiate allegations of corporal punishment against Petitioner based solely on what “those three children wrote at someone else's prompting,” after she was unable to determine any truth to the original allegations, “is beyond arbitrary.”

Judge Mendez annulled the letter substantiating allegations of corporal punishment against Petitioner and ordered DOE to expunge all reference to the “Suspension Letter” determination, and anything else referring to it, from its files, “including, but not limited to, any reference to a substantiated allegation of corporal punishment and the two day suspension.” The court then directed DOE pay Petitioner two-days back pay and other benefits lost as a result of Petitioner's two-day suspension. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_51145.htm

Workers’ compensation claim for the employee’s attorney fees awarded after carrier made full reimbursement for wages paid an employee injured on the job

Workers’ compensation claim for the employee’s attorney fees awarded after carrier made full reimbursement for wages paid an employee injured on the job
Casale v City of Rye, 2013 NY Slip Op 05268, Appellate Division, Third Department

A police officer submitted a claim for workers' compensation benefits after sustaining a fractured wrist on the job. The employer did not controvert the claim and paid the officer full wages during the period of his disability. The employer than sought reimbursement from its workers' compensation carrier for the wages it had paid the police officer.

The Workers' Compensation Board, without holding hearings, issued a proposed decision that established the claim and directed the workers' compensation carrier to reimburse the employer for the period of during which it had paid the police officer.

The carrier made full reimbursement to the employer as directed but on the same date that such payment was made the police officer’s attorney faxed a request for fees with the Board. As a result, the Board rescinded its decision and issued a new proposed decision awarding the police officer’s counsel a $750 fee and directed that it be paid by the carrier as a lien on the current award.

The carrier objected, contending that the award had already been paid.

The Board rescinded, again, “all prior decisions and scheduled a hearing.” Ultimately the Board granted police officer's counsel a $750 fee as a lien on any future awards made and the carrier appealed, contending that “the counsel fee award should have been made immediately payable by the carrier as an overpayment.”

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s decision, explaining that “counsel fees in conjunction with a workers' compensation claim may be attached as a lien to ‘'any compensation awarded,’ and the fact that a balance is not currently owing to a claimant does not preclude an award of fees made payable as a lien against future awards.”

Noting that there was nothing in the record establishing that the carrier received notice of the counsel fee request before it made full reimbursement to the employer, the Appellate Division declined to disturb the Board’s decision to award such fees as a lien against future awards.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Failure to establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination or retaliation within the meaning of Executive Law §296 requires the dismissal of the complaint

Failure to establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination or retaliation within the meaning of Executive Law §296 requires the dismissal of the complaint
Adeniran v State of New York, 2013 NY Slip Op 03441, Appellate Division, Second Department

Caroline Adeniran brought an action in the State's Court of Claims seeking to recover damages for her allegedly suffering a “retaliatory discharge” in violation of Executive Law §296. Court of Claims Judge Lupez-Summa dismissed Adeniran’s complaint and she appealed.

The Appellate Division sustained Judge Lupez-Summa’s determination, explaining that Adeniran failed to make a prima facieshowing of retaliation under Executive Law §296.

In order to make a prima facie showing of retaliation, a claimant is required to ldemonstrate the following four elements:

a. That he or she was engaged in protected activity;

b. That his or her employer was aware that he or she participated in such activity;

c. That he or she suffered an adverse employment action based upon his or her activity; and

d. That there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action alleged.

Once such a prima facie case is made, the burden shifts to the employer to present legitimate, independent, and nondiscriminatory reasons to support its action or decision.

Assuming that the employer meets this burden, the claimant would then have the obligation of showing that the reasons advanced by the employer “were merely a pretext” in an effort to excuse its unlawful action or activity.

Adeniran was employed as a registered nurse at the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center. She alleged that she was harassed and intimidated by the staff of Pilgrim's mental health department and that her employment was terminated in retaliation because she complained to her supervisors.

The Appellate Division said that the employer had rebutted Adeniran prima facie case alleging retaliation by showing that the complaints made by Adeniran to her supervisors did not relate to statutorily forbidden discriminatory practices. Thus, said the court, Adeniran had not demonstrated "the fourth element" required to establish her prima facie case-- that she had engaged in protected activity within the meaning of Executive Law §296 and had suffered an adverse personnel action as a result.

As the employer had rebutted Adeniran’s prima faciecase and Adeniran had failed to show that the employer's rebuttal was “mere pretext,” the Appellate Division said that the State was entitled to summary judgment dismissing Adeniran’s complaint alleging unlawful harassment, explaining that “New York does not recognize a common-law cause of action to recover damages for harassment."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_03441.htm

The allocation of positions in the public service to salary grades is a permissive rather than a mandatory subject of collective bargaining

The allocation of positions in the public service to salary grades is a permissive rather than a mandatory subject of collective bargaining
County of Tompkins v. Tompkins County Unit of CSEA (PERB U-5676)

Is the classification and allocation of positions a mandatory subject of negotiations under the Taylor Law? In County of Tompkins v. Tompkins County Unit of CSEA PERB ruled that classification and allocation matters were permissive rather than mandatory subjects of collective bargaining for the purposes of the Taylor Law.

The Tompkins County case arose when the County refused to negotiate the allocation of newly established positions that were in a negotiating unit represented by CSEA.

The Union filed an improper practice charge and the PERB hearing officer ruled that the allocation of positions in an employer’s workforce was a mandatory subject of negotiations. He then dismissed the case upon his finding that the County had reserved to itself the authority to allocate positions in the “Management’s Rights” clause of the contract, which he said precluded negotiations on the subject during the life of the Agreement.

However, the hearing officer had rejected the County’s argument that State and case law, including Evans v. Newman, 49 NY2d 904. Tompkins County contended that the Evan’s decision’s holding that the classification and allocation of positions were not terms and conditions of employment with respect to positions with the State as the employer* was equally applicable to municipal positions.

On appeal, PERB said that it had reconsidered its earlier decisions on the subject and now concluded that the holding in Evans was a general statement of the law “whose applicability was not restricted to the parties in that case.” PERB said that in reconsidering its earlier decisions regarding local employers, “we [now] conclude as to them, as the Court did with respect to the State employees, that allocation and reallocation are an essential aspect of the level and quality of service to be provided by a public employer.”

PERB decided that a public employer should not be compelled to negotiate over such decisions and held that allocations of positions to salary grades are not mandatory subjects of negotiations.

* Evans was employed by the State’s Office of Court Administration.


Positions in the public service may not be abolished in bad faith
Matter of Weimer, 74 AD2d 574

Although the consultant recommended the creation of a new position of “business manager.” to report to the Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs, the School Board abolished the Assistant Superintendent position in favor of the creation of two new positions: an “Administrator of Operations” and a “Business Manager”. The incumbent of the Assistant Superintendent position, George C. Weimer, Jr., was terminated from his position and two other individuals were appointed to the newly created positions.

The Court held that the duties of the Assistant Superintendent position were merely transferred to two new positions and therefore the abolishment of the Assistant Superintendent position was not made in good faith as the grounds. The decision indicates that Weimer’s tenure rights could not be summarily. The Court also noted that the School Superintendent had earlier suggested to the School Board that “the duties of the (Assistant) position be gradually reduced until the (Assistant) would leave of his own accord.”

The Appellate Division ruled that Weimer had discharged duties substantially similar in nature to the duties assigned to the new positions. He was thus entitled to be granted relief under the provisions of §2510 of the Education Law.*

Weimer, however, indicated in his brief that he has obtained other employment in another school district. Accordingly, the Appellate Division remitted the matter to Supreme Court “for the sole purpose of determining the amount of salary due [Weimer], less the amount of the earnings from other employment and any unemployment [Weimer] may have received.”

* In the words of the court: ”Just as under the provisions of the Civil Service Law, a municipality may not abolish a position by subterfuge (Switzer v Sanitary Dist. No. 7, Town of Hempstead, 59 A.D.2d 889, app dsmd 43 N.Y.2d 845; Matter of Wipfler v Klebes, 284 NY 248; Wood v City of New York, 274 NY 155; Ann., 87 ALR3d 1165, 1184), a school board under the provisions of the Education Law may not abolish a position by subterfuge (Matter of Amos v Board of Educ., 54 A.D.2d 297, 301, affd 43 N.Y.2d 706; cf. Matter of Abramovich v Board of Educ., 46 N.Y.2d 450, 454; Education Law, §2510.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://ny.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.19800204_0040515.NY.htm/qx

At least one part of an examination for a position in the competitive class must be competitive

At least one part of an examination for a position in the competitive class must be competitive
Informal Opinions of the Attorney General, January 8, l980

A selection procedure for employment in the competitive class consisting of a qualifying written test and a ranked (competitive) physical agility test complies with the constitutional and statutory requirements for a competitive examination of merit and fitness for the position “where practicable.”

Further the Civil Service Commission has the discretion to determine the appropriate selection devices. 

When it has been determined that a competitive examination is practicable, that test may be a written tests, an oral test or a performance test, or any combination thereof, so long as some part of the test can be scored and the candidates ranked on the basis of their scores.

The Opinion also observed that “All that is necessary is that the test selected be objective in nature and the scoring procedures reviewable.


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/

Caution:

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