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February 11, 2014

Resolving ties in seniority in the event of a layoff

Resolving ties in seniority in the event of a layoff
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision 16,584

In this appeal concerning the appointment and preferred eligibility rights involving two teachers of Spanish the Commission reviewed the events leading to their respective appointments and determined that both teachers “had the same amount of full-time service in the foreign language tenure area.”

As to a school board’s resolving “ties” in seniority to determine which of two or more teachers were to be excessed, the Commissioner said that “the board may use an objective means to break the tie in determining seniority.”

In this instance the school board elected to determine which one of the two teachers to retain in service by considering their names in alphabetical order.

The Commissioner concluded that this method was “objective” and ruled that board’s decision to retain the teacher whose last name started with “A” rather than the teacher whose last name started with the letter “G” was not arbitrary and capricious.

Other means of breaking seniority ties in the event of a reduction of staff include: one teacher was "certified” in a second tenure area that “could be beneficial to the district in the future;" it would be "cost effective" to terminate the teacher having the higher rate of compensation consistent with the district's efforts to reduce its expenditures; the date of a school board's resolution appointing the individuals; the date of receipt of the application; the individual’s date of birth; a lottery system.

Although a collective bargaining agreement negotiated pursuant to the Taylor Law [Article 14 of the Civil Service Law] may provide for the determination of certain benefits based on seniority such as shift selection or priority in scheduling vacation,such provisions may not be used to defeat certain rights based on seniority set by law. For example, the rights of an individual in layoff situations in the classified service set out in §§80 and 80-a of the Civil Service Law are based on seniority which rights may not be adversely affected by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement [see City of Plattsburgh v Local 788, 108 AD2d 1045].

The Commissioner’s decision is posted on the Internet at:

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