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February 28, 2014

Delay in terminating an employee

Delay in terminating an employee
2014 NY Slip Op 00265, Appellate Division, Third Department

In Mendez v Valenti, 101 AD2d 612, the Appellate Division held that retaining Mendez, a probationary employee, on the payroll after the maximum period of his probation until the end of payroll period for administrative convenience did not result in his attaining tenure in the position.

The Court decided that, under the circumstances, keeping Mendez on the payroll was permissible in view of the fact that it was of a short duration; was for "administrative convenience;" and Mendez had been provided with timely prior notice of that he would be terminated at the end of his probationary period.

In Cappello the Appellate Division applied a similar rationale in overturning a decision by the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board granting an individual [Claimant] unemployment insurance benefits.

According to the decision, the employer dismissed Claimant after determining that she had violated the employer's policy and committed theft. Claimant was initially disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits on the ground that she lost her employment through misconduct, and this decision was upheld by an Administrative Law Judge following a hearing.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, however, reversed this decision and found that claimant was entitled to receive benefits. The Board ruled that Claimant did not lose her employment due to misconduct because the employer delayed in terminating her after learning of her actions and did not provide a reasonable excuse for the delay.

The employer appealed and the Appellate Division vacated the Board’s ruling.

The Court explained that the Board’s conclusion was not supported by the record as upon the employer becoming aware of Claimant's inappropriate conduct it immediately proceeded to conduct an investigation, obtaining a statement from one employee and subsequently obtained a statement from Claimant about a month later  “as part of its continuing investigation.” Less than two weeks after obtaining Claimant’s statement the employer terminated for violating the employer’s policy.

The Appellate Division said that “[u]nder the circumstances presented” it did not find that the employer had engaged in an inordinate delay in terminating Claimant such that it could not rely upon her misconduct as the reason for her discharge.

Noting that it is well settled that an employee's dishonesty or failure to comply with an employer's policy and procedures constitutes disqualifying misconduct, here, said the Appellate Division, the evidence is undisputed that Claimant violated the employer's relevant policy. Accordingly, explained the court, “[g]iven [Claimant’s] misconduct, substantial evidence does not support the Board's decision that she was entitled to receive benefits” and reversed the Board’s decision.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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