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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Post-hearing conduct of the employee not considered by the hearing officer in making an administrative decision


Post-hearing conduct of the employee not considered by the hearing officer in making an administrative decision
OATH Index No. 1233/14

OATH Administrative Law Judge Tynia D. Richard presided at a Civil Service Law §72 disability proceeding initiated by the appointing authority. The employer alleged that the individual was “mentally unfit to perform the duties of his position.” The employee denied the allegation.

Judge Richard found the evidence supported the medical opinion of a board certified psychiatrist that the individual was unfit to perform the duties of his position due to a psychotic condition, known as delusional disorder of a persecutory nature, that impeded his ability to make basic engagements with reality and recommended that the employee be placed on leave pursuant to Civil Service Law §72.

The employer subsequently submitted an e-mail requested an “expedited decision” based on the employee’s conduct after the hearing had been closed. The employee’s attorney sent an e-mail objecting to the employee’s post hearing conduct being made a part of the record in this case so as to form the basis for expediting a decision.

The ALJ advised the parties that “it was not proper to put additional facts before me as the record of the case is closed.”  Judge Richard also noted the procedure that the parities were to use in seeking an expedited decision. However, said Judge Richard, a formal request for an expedited decision was never filed.

Although Judge Richard entered the e-mails into the record, she advised the parties that she had not taken the new allegations into account in her analysis of the case nor in making her determination.

The determination: Judge Richard found that the employee was unfit to remain in his position and recommended that he be placed on leave pursuant to §72 of the Civil Service Law, which recommendation was adopted by the appointing authority.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
 http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/11_Cases/14-1233.pdf
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Filing fraudulent documents to obtain a benefit


Filing fraudulent documents to obtain a benefit
OATH Index No. 229/14

A New York City correction officer was charged with tendering fraudulent documents to obtain subsidized housing benefits, establishing residency in another state for purposes of engaging in unauthorized outside employment, and engaging in unauthorized outside employment.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Astrid B. Gloade found that the officer underreported her income to obtain Section 8 housing benefits* and that although this misconduct   occurred when the employee was “off-duty” an employer may discipline an employee for off-duty misconduct where there is sufficient nexus between the conduct to be
sanctioned and the employee’s job position, citing Villanueva v. Simpson, 69 N.Y.2d 1034.

Judge Gloade also found the the employee had an unauthorized job while on a leave of absence from the Department.

The residency charge was dismissed by the ALJ, who found that the employer failed to prove that the correction officer established residency in another state for purposes of engaging in outside employment..

Judge Gloade, however, recommended that the correction officer be terminated from her position on the basis of charges that were proven by the agency.

* The employee “plead guilty to disorderly conduct (Penal Law §240.20) and agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $19,127 to the federal government within one year” with respect to her obtaining Section 8 housing benefits.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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Monday, April 28, 2014

The doctrine of respondeat superior


The doctrine of respondeat superior
Selmani v City of New York, 2014 NY Slip Op 02764, Appellate Division, Second Department

In this action the Appellate Division sets out the basics regarding the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Essentially, said the court, the doctrine of respondeat superior will hold an employer vicariously liable for torts committed by an employee acting within the scope of the individual’s employment. Pursuant to this doctrine, the employer may be liable when the employee acts negligently or intentionally, so long as the tortious conduct is generally foreseeable and a natural incident of the individual’s employment.

The Appellate Division indicated that:

1. "An employee's actions fall within the scope of employment where the purpose in performing such actions is to further the employer's interest, or to carry out duties incumbent upon the employee in furthering the employer's business'.”

2. "An act is considered to be within the scope of employment if it is performed while the employee is engaged generally in the business of the employer, or if the act may be reasonably said to be necessary or incidental to such employment."

3. “Where, however, an employee's actions are taken for wholly personal reasons, which are not job related, the [employee’s] actions cannot be said to fall within the scope of employment.”

4. “In instances where vicarious liability for an employee's torts cannot be imposed upon an employer, a direct cause of action against the employer for its own conduct, be it negligent hiring, supervision, or other negligence, may still be maintained.”

In this actions certain patrons at restaurant alleged that the individual defendants named in their compliant, who were members of the employer’s Fire Department, entered the restaurant with coworkers, including supervisors. The group of firefighters had allegedly come from a Fire Department annual dinner held at another location and continued celebrating and drinking at the restaurant.

One of the injured plaintiffs allegedly accidentally spilled a drink on a firefighter and was allegedly attacked and assaulted by the named defendant-firefighters. The employer moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted it. The Supreme Court granted the motion.

The Appellate Division modified the Supreme Court’s order by deleting the provision granting that branch of the employer’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the causes of action alleging negligent hiring, supervision, training, and retention insofar as asserted against them. The court, instead, substituted a provision denying that branch of the motion; as so modified, affirmed the Supreme Court’s order.

The Appellate Division explained that although Supreme Court properly granted” the employer’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the causes of action alleging vicarious liability, as the employer had established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that the tortious conduct of named defendant-firefighters was not within the scope of their employment,* it failed to rebut the plaintiffs’ claims of alleged “negligent hiring, supervision, training, and retention,” and thus the employer did not establish its entitlement to summary judgment as a matter of law on that branch of the plaintiffs' complaint.

The employer, said the court, failed to submit any evidence demonstrating that it did not know or have reason to know of defendant-firefighters’ alleged “propensity for assaultive conduct” nor did the employer submit evidence demonstrating that any such alleged negligence was not a proximate cause of the injured plaintiffs' injuries.

* This finding suggests that the defendant–firefighters can neither claim “defense nor indemnification” from their employer.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Civil Service Commission's decision in an appeal to the employer's disciplinary determination is reviewable by the court


Civil Service Commission's decision in an appeal to the employer's disciplinary determination is reviewable by the court
City School District of Lockport v. Cappola, 83 A.D.2d 751, motion for leave to appeal denied, 57 N.Y.2d 607

An employee appealed the employer’s finding that the individual was guilty of certain disciplinary charges it filed against the worker pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law and the penalty it imposed, suspension without pay for two days, to the Civil Service Commission as provided by §76.1 of the Civil Service Law.

§76.1, in pertinent part, provides as follows:  “Any officer or employee believing himself aggrieved by a penalty or punishment of demotion in or dismissal from the service, or suspension without pay, or a fine, or an official reprimand, unaccompanied by a remittance of said officer or employee's prehearing suspension without pay, imposed pursuant to the provisions of section seventy-five of this chapter, may appeal from such determination either by an application to the state or municipal commission having jurisdiction, or by an application to the court in accordance with the provisions of article seventy-eight of the civil practice law and rules.”

The Commission vacated the employer’s determination, ruling that there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the findings of the hearing officer.

The Employer appealed the Commission’s determination.

Noting that although the text of the Civil Service Law §76.3 states, in pertinent part, “The decision of such [state or municipal] civil service commission shall be final and conclusive, and not subject to further review in any court.” the Appellate Division ruled that the Commission’s decision was, indeed, reviewable by the court, explaining that “Despite the language which seems to preclude judicial review, a CPLR article 78 proceeding will lie where it is alleged that the Commission's decision was ‘purely arbitrary’ or where the penalty imposed by the Commission is challenged as an abuse of discretion.”

The court then sustained the Commission’s decision as reasonable.

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Complaint alleging violations of the State’s and New York City’s Human Rights Laws dismissed for failure to establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination


Complaint alleging violations of the State’s and New York City’s Human Rights Laws dismissed for failure to establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination
2014 NY Slip Op 02696, Appellate Division, First Department

State Supreme Court Judge Arthur F. Engoron granted the employer’s motion to dismiss the unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims under the State and City Human Rights Laws (HRL) (Executive Law §290 et seq.; Administrative Code of City of NY §8-101 et seq.), filed by one of its employees, [Plaintiff].

Construing the complaint liberally, presuming its factual allegations to be true, and according it the benefit of every possible favorable inference, the Appellate Division sustained the lower court’s ruling explaining that Plaintiff failed to adequately plead that she was subjected to an adverse employment action as none of the allegations set out in her complaint rises to the level of an actionable adverse employment action.

In addition the court found that Plaintiff failed to adequately plead discriminatory animus, which is fatal to both her discrimination and hostile environment claims as her complaint does not contain any allegations of any comments or references to Plaintiff's age or race made by any employee of employer.

Further, said the Appellate Division, Plaintiff’s petition does not contain any factual allegations demonstrating that similarly situated individuals who did not share Plaintiff's protected characteristics were treated more favorably than Plaintiff and her “conclusory allegations of a hostile environment are insufficient to state a claim under either the State or City Human Rights Laws.

Plaintiff’s allegations of “retaliation” faired no better as she failed to plead any facts regarding when the alleged retaliatory incidents occurred or how those incidents were causally connected to any protected activity, nor did she state the substance of her alleged complaints, to whom she allegedly complained, or when such complaints were made.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02696.htm


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Security of government computer records


Security of government computer records
State Technology Law and other provisions of law

A town recently reported that its accounting program was the victim of hacking and a number of “payroll checks” were processed and presented for payment. Although the town’s bank “caught” the fraudulent checks, the town expressed concern that personal information in its system may have been compromised and asked its attorney to advise it as to its possible liability to individuals who may suffer as a result of the theft of personal data.

To assist public agencies to cope with the increasing number of attempts to breach computer security efforts, the New York State Office of Cyber Security has issued its Cyber Security Policy P03-002, Information Security Policy, posted on the Internet at http://www.dhses.ny.gov/ocs/resources/documents/cyber-security-policy-p03-002-v3.4.pdf , while the State Comptroller’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability has issued a “Local Government Information Security” statement that is posted on the Internet at http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/snapshot/cybersecurity0811.pdf

A “Cyber Security Citizen’s Notification Policy” has been adopted by municipalities to deal with a breach of its computer security protocols. For example, the Village of North Hills has such a policy it has posted on the Internet [ http://ecode360.com/6309491 ] as has the Town of Massena [see http://ecode360.com/11058454 ]. 

In addition, General Business Law §899-aa, the Security Breach and Notification Act, addresses situations resulting from persons without valid authorization having acquired private information stored on an business  entity's computer..

Also relevant is §208(8) of the State Technology Law captioned “Notification; person without valid authorization has acquired private information,” requiring counties, cities, towns, villages and other governmental entities to adopt a computer security “breach notification policy.”

In addition, §308.1 of the act provides as follows with respect to personal privacy protection:

"Any information reported to the electronic facilitator by a government entity in connection with the authorization of an electronic signature shall continue to be withheld from public disclosure if such information was withheld from public disclosure by such government entity. Electronic records shall be considered and treated as any other records for the purposes of the freedom of information law as set forth in article six of the public officers law and the personal privacy protection law as set forth in article six-A of the public officers law.

“2. A person or an entity that acts as an authenticator of electronic signatures shall not disclose to a third party any personal information reported to it by the electronic signatory other than the information necessary to authenticate the signature unless the disclosure is made pursuant to a court order or statute, or if the information or data is used solely for statistical purposes in aggregate form. For purposes of this section, "personal information" shall mean data that identifies a specific person, including but not limited to home and work addresses, telephone number, e-mail address, social security number, birthdate, gender, marital status, mother's maiden name, and health data.”
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An employee who becomes unavailable for work as a result of other employment may be terminated from his or her position



An employee who becomes unavailable for work as a result of other employment may be terminated from his or her position
2014 NY Slip Op 02644, Appellate Division, Third Department

A part-time police officer [Plaintiff] serving with a police department was appointed to a full-time position with another police department. Plaintiff’s appointment with the new police agency was subject to his satisfactorily completing a probationary period. In addition, the decision of the Appellate Division notes that Plaintiff’s new employment precluded him from engaging in outside employment for at least one year.

When Plaintiff was notified by his former employer that his employment was terminated because his new position rendered him unavailable for work, he filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 contending that his former employer’s action violated Civil Service Law §80 [sic].* Plaintiff asked Supreme Court to annul his termination and an order directing that his former employer immediately reinstate him.

Supreme Court dismissed the petition and plaintiff appealed.

Petitioner argued that his former employer improperly abolished his position and that he is entitled to remain employed despite being unavailable to perform any services for his employer for at least a year. The Appellate Division disagreed and affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The court explained Civil Service Law §80 applies where a  “where a civil service position is eliminated due to ‘economy, consolidation or abolition of functions, curtailment of activities or otherwise,’ then suspension, demotion or termination must occur ‘in the inverse order of original appointment.’”

Here, however, the Appellate Division said that §80 “is entirely inapplicable here” as Plaintiff’s former employer did not eliminate or abolish petitioner's position. Rather, as the termination letter sent to Plaintiff indicates, Plaintiff was simply terminated so that his former employer could fill the position with someone who was available to work.

* Civil Service Law §80 applies in situations where a permanent employee of the State or a political subdivision of the State in the competitive class of the classified service is laid off as the result of the abolishment of his or her position. Civil Service Law §80-a applies to an employee of the State as the employer serving in a position in the noncompetitive class of classified service if the event his or her position is abolished.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Extending a probationary period


Extending a probationary period
76 AD2d 973

An individual was permanently appointed to a position with the State subject to his satisfactorily completing a 52-week probationary period.

As a result of his being absent from work 24 days due to job-related injury, he was told that his probationary period was extended “24 days”. The employee was subsequently dismissed from his position “for failure to satisfactorily complete the probationary period.”

The individual sued, seeking a court order directing his reinstatement to the position. The Appellate Division, however, rejected his argument that he became permanent at the end of 52 weeks, holding that the Rules for the Classified Service* for employees of the State as the employer, provided that the “Maximum period of probationary term of any employee shall be extended by the number of work days of his absence which ... are not counted as time served in the probationary term."

The court explained that the "rationale of the regulation is to add to the expiration date of the probationary period the same period of time that the (employee) had missed during his probationary period, so that his performance of duty could be fully observed and evaluated for an entire 52 week period."

* See 4 NYCRR 4.5(g). A number of municipal civil service commissions and personnel officers have adopted similar rules.
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State voters may amend a state's constitution to prohibit consideration of racial preferences with respect admission to colleges and universities if it does not reflect a racially discriminatory purpose


State voters may amend a state's constitution to prohibit consideration of racial preferences with respect admission to colleges and universities if it does not reflect a racially discriminatory purpose

The summary of the decision set out below was prepared by Justia.
The text of the decision, the several concurring opinions and the dissent are posted on the Internet at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/12-682 

After the Supreme Court decided that the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions plan’s use of race-based preferences violated the Equal Protection Clause, but that its law school admission plan’s limited use did not, Michigan voters adopted a new section of the state constitution (Proposal 2), prohibiting use of race-based preferences in the admissions process for state universities.

The district court upheld Proposal 2, but the Sixth Circuit reversed, concluding that it violated Supreme Court precedent.

The Supreme Court reversed. Justice Kennedy, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, reasoned that the principle that consideration of race in admissions is permissible when certain conditions are met was not challenged; the issue was whether, and how, state voters may choose to prohibit consideration of such racial preferences. The decision by Michigan voters reflects an ongoing national dialogue; there was no infliction of a specific injury of the type at issue in cases cited by the Sixth Circuit. Individual liberty has constitutional protection, but the Constitution also embraces the right of citizens to act through a lawful electoral process, as Michigan voters did. Justices Scalia and Thomas stated that the question here, as in every case in which neutral state action is said to deny equal protection on account of race, is whether the challenged action reflects a racially discriminatory purpose. Stating that it did not, the Justices stated that the proposition that a facially neutral law may deny equal protection solely because it has a disparate racial impact “has been squarely and soundly rejected.”

Justice Breyer agreed that the amendment is consistent with the Equal Protection Clause, but reasoned that the amendment only applies to, and forbids, race-conscious admissions programs that consider race solely in order to obtain the educational benefits of a diverse student body; the Constitution permits, but does not require, the use of that kind of race-conscious program. The ballot box, not the courts, is the instrument for resolving debates about such programs. This case does not involve a diminution of the minority’s ability to participate in the political process.

A press release advising of the publication of Professor John D. Skrentny’s latest book, AFTER CIVIL RIGHTS, [Princeton University Press, 2013] notes that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, but talking about race at work remains as difficult as ever.

Professor Skrentny brings together the latest social science studies and evidence to provide a comprehensive picture of how employers manage racial difference in the 21st century—and sets out his views as to why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is no longer in sync with that picture.

For additional information about this book, click on:
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10095.html

Loss of a required license or permit to perform the duties of the position


Loss of a required license or permit to perform the duties of the position
2014 NY Slip Op 50585(U),  Supreme Court, Dutchess County, Judge James D. Pagones (Not selected for publication in the Official Reports.)

In this Article 78 action a former employee of a State agency [Petitioner] challenged his summary dismissal from his position on the grounds that he did not possess a valid driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle in New York State. Petitioner asked Supreme Court to (1) annulling the Employer’s terminating him from his position, (2) directing his reinstatement to his position with back pay, benefits, service time, seniority and other fringe benefits; and (3) award him the costs and disbursements of this proceeding, together with reasonable attorney's fees.

Petitioner’s employer had notified Petitioner that his employment would be terminated because he did not meet the "minimum qualifications" of his position as he had not secured and/or maintained a valid New York State driver's license.” Alleging that the Employer’s determination was arbitrary, capricious and made in bad faith, Petitioner argued that:

(1) he should have been afforded the protections mandated by Civil Service Law Section 75, and as outlined in Article 33 of the Collective Agreements between the State of New York and the New York State Civil Service Employees Association;

(2) while minimum qualifications of employment may not rise to acts of misconduct that would invoke disciplinary procedures mandated by the Civil Service Law, a driver's license was not a minimum qualification at the time of his appointment; and

(3) the class specification for his position does not clearly identify a valid driver's license as a minimum qualification.

Judge Pagones said that it is well settled that the failure to maintain a minimum qualification for employment is not an act of misconduct nor one related to job performance that would invoke the disciplinary procedures mandated by Civil Service Law §75, citing Matter of NYS Office of Children and Family Services v Lanterman, 14 NY3d 275. 

Courts have viewed employees who lack licenses as being “unqualified,” in contrast to being “incompetent,” to perform the duties of the position. Common examples include the revocation of a truck driver’s permit to operate a motor vehicle on public roads, loss of an attorney’s license to practice law and the expiration of a temporary permit to teach. All that appears to be necessary in such cases is for the appointing authority to make some reasonable inquiry to determine if the employee may lawfully perform the duties of the position.*

Thus, explained the court, "an employee charged with failing to possess a minimum qualification of his or her position is only entitled to notice of the charge and the opportunity to contest it" and dismissed Petitioner’s action.

* See, for example: Fowler v City of Saratoga Springs, 215 A.D.2d 819 (City Engineer lawfully dismissed for failure to obtain Professional Engineer’s license by a specified date); Meliti v Nyquist, 53 AD2d 951, affirmed 41 NY2d 183 (immediate suspension of teachers was lawful because their teaching licenses had expired); and O’Keefe v Niagara Mohawk Power Corp, 714 FSupp 622, (traveling company demonstrator was not discriminated against when a private employer terminated him after his driver’s license was suspended)

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_50585.htm
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Probationary employee improperly terminated entitled to back salary


Probationary employee improperly terminated entitled to back salary
92 AD2d 259

A probationary teacher was found to have been “improperly terminated” by her school principal. One year later the Chancellor of the Board of Education, City of New York, reinstated the educator to her former position. 

As the Court of Appeals noted in Frasier v Board of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of N.Y., 71 NY2d 763, where there has been an unlawful removal from service, back pay is authorized upon reinstatement.
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Goggle Statistics – March 2014


Goggle Statistics – March 2014

Goggle Statistics reports the following have been the most frequently accessed NYPPL items as of March 31, 2014.

Essentials of the “Pickering Balancing Test”             2721 “hits”

The legal distinction between domicile and residence            1655 “hits”

Any administrative action in the nature of discipline taken against a tenured teacher must be taken pursuant to Education Law §3020-a exclusively            1234 “hits”

Employee's inability to provide the necessary urine sample for a drug test because of a medical condition trumps allegations of misconduct                   1070 “hits”

Two different complaints; two different forums            970 “hits”
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New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli offers proposal to encourage better local government budgeting practices


New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli offers proposal to encourage better local government budgeting practices
Source: Office of the State Comptroller

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has introduced a proposed bill* aimed at helping local governments across New York improve their long-term budget planning. The bill would provide reimbursement from the state to municipalities for costs incurred for hiring financial advisors to assist in the development of multi-year budget plans.

Key elements of the proposed legislation include providing for counties, cities, towns and villages identified as fiscally stressed to be reimbursed by the state’s Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments for all or part of the costs associated with long-term budget planning and multi-year financial planning to enable these entities to develop revenue and expenditure trends, establish long-term priorities and goals, and take into consideration the impact of near-term budgeting decisions on future fiscal years.

* Comptroller’s Program Bill #35. The proposed legislation is part of the Comptroller’s fiscal stress initiative that includes the creation of a Fiscal Stress Monitoring System for local governments. The system, implemented in 2013, uses financial indicators that include year-end fund balance, cash position and patterns of operating deficits to create an overall fiscal stress score which classifies whether a municipality is in “significant fiscal stress,” in “moderate fiscal stress,” is “susceptible to fiscal stress,” or “no designation.” As of April 22, 2014, DiNapoli’s monitoring system has identified a total of 142 municipalities in some level of fiscal stress. This includes 16 counties, 18 towns, five cities, 16 villages and 87 school districts.

The Comptroller’s proposal is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/legislation/2013-14/oscb35.htm

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The Warren M. Anderson Breakfast Series Seminar’s Campaign Finance session is scheduled for April 29, 2014


The Warren M. Anderson Breakfast Series Seminar’s Campaign Finance session is scheduled for April 29, 2014
Source: Government Law Center, Albany Law School

The Albany Law School’s Government Law Center will host the next 2014 Annual Warren M. Anderson Breakfast Seminar Series, a nonpartisan hour-long breakfast program, on April 29 from 8-9 a.m. in the Assembly Parlor, at the State Capitol, 3rd FL. The program continues to be offered free of charge, but space is limited.

Richard Brodsky and John Faso will discuss Campaign Finance.

For those interested, each seminar is accredited for one hour of transitional and non-transitional CLE credit in the area of “Professional Practice.”

To register or to obtain more information, contact Ms. Amy Gunnells at agunn@albanylaw.edu or telephone 518-445-2329.

Applying for accidental disability retirement and performance of duty disability retirement benefits


Applying for accidental disability retirement and performance of duty disability retirement benefits
2014 NY Slip Op 02120, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Appellate, considering the application of a correction officer [Plaintiff] to review a determination of New York Employees’ Retirement System that denied her applications for accidental disability and performance of duty disability retirement benefits, dismissed the action on the grounds that Petitioner’s application for such benefits was untimely filed.

Petitioner was injured when she slipped on ice while on her way to the building where her locker was located in order to change out of her uniform. Thereafter, she returned to work for only one day and received her last payroll check in July 2009. Petitioner was then placed on unpaid approved medical leave of absence and received workers' compensation benefits.

In January 2011, Petitioner applied for accidental disability retirement benefits under Retirement and Social Security Law §507-a, alleging that she was permanently incapacitated as a result of the injuries she sustained when she slipped on ice some two years earlier. In the alternative, Plaintiff filed an application for performance of duty disability benefits pursuant to §507-b of the Retirement and Social Security Law.

In February 2011, Petitioner was terminated and issued a check representing her accrued vacation pay. In the alternative, Plaintiff filed an application for performance of duty disability benefits. Both applications were denied and petitioner timely requested a hearing and redetermination.

Addressing the issue of the timeliness of Petitioner’s applications for accidental disability retirement benefits the Appellate Division explained that §507-a(b)(2) specifically provides that such an application "must be filed within three months from the last date the member was being paid on the payroll or within twelve months of the last date he [or she] was being paid on the payroll provided he [or she] was on a leave of absence for medical reasons without pay during such twelve month period provided the member was disabled at the time he [or she] ceased being paid."

Noting that Petitioner did not file her application for accidental disability retirement benefits within these time limits, the court ruled that neither her receipt of workers' compensation benefits nor the check she received for accrued vacation time qualifies as payments "on the payroll" for purposes of the statute, citing Matter of Schwartz v McCall, 300 AD2d 887.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that the Retirement Systems determination “that [Petitioner's] application [for accidental disability retirement benefits] was untimely is rational and supported by substantial evidence."

Turning to the denial of Petitioner's §507-b application for performance of duty disability retirement benefits, the court conclude that there was substantial evidence supporting Retirement System's determination as both Petitioner and her counsel conceded at the hearing that the January 2009 incident was not caused by an act of an inmate and no proof that would support such a finding was produced at the hearing. Thus, said the Appellate Division, Petitioner's current claim that her fall must have been caused by negligent maintenance on the part of an inmate is speculative and lacks support in the record.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02120.htm

Monday, April 21, 2014

Temporary appointments


Temporary appointments
130 A.D.2d 72, affirmed 72 N.Y.2d 986

§64.3 of the Civil Service Law provides that “Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivisions one and two of this section, the civil service department or municipal commission having jurisdiction may authorize a temporary appointment, without examination, when the person appointed will render professional, scientific, technical or other expert services (1) on an occasional basis or (2) on a full-time or regular part-time basis in a temporary position established to conduct a special study or project for a period not exceeding eighteen months. Such appointment may be authorized only in a case where, because of the nature of the services to be rendered and the temporary or occasional character of such services, it would not be practicable to hold an examination of any kind.”

However, §64.2, which provides for “Temporary appointments from eligible lists,” states that ”A temporary appointment for a period not exceeding three months may be made without regard to existing eligible lists. A temporary appointment for a period exceeding three months but not exceeding six months may be by the selection of a person from an appropriate eligible list, if available, without regard to the relative standing of such person on such list. Any further temporary appointment beyond such six month period or any temporary appointment originally made for a period exceeding six months shall be made by the selection of an appointee from among those graded highest on an appropriate eligible list, if available.”

When Suffolk County dismissed its consulting firm supervising the construction of a sewer project, the State and Federal governments threatened to cut off funds unless the County provided for the required supervision of the project.

Relying on §64.3 of the Civil Service Law, which provides for temporary appointments without examination, the County hired an inspection staff without making such appointments from available eligible lists. The Court found that such lists could have been used for the appointments.

Holding that exceptions to the general civil service policy of filling vacancies in the classified service from appropriate eligible lists is to be strictly construed, the court declared the §64.3 appointments unlawful.

Although §64.3 permits appointments without the use of eligible lists, such appointments are authorized only in exceptional cases. Significantly, the provision requires that it would not be practical to hold an examination of any kind to fill the vacancy. The court's finding that suitable eligible lists were already available proved to be a critical consideration as it obviated any argument that it would not be practical to hold such tests.
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Applying the doctrine of res judicata


Applying the doctrine of res judicata 
2014 NY Slip Op 02005, Appellate Division, Second Department

When the employee [Plaintiff] filed a lawsuit alleging that he had been the victim of unlawful discrimination, Supreme Court dismiss the complaint on the ground that the action was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.*

The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Plaintiff was served with disciplinary pursuant to Civil Service Law §75, alleging various types of work-related misconduct, and he was suspended for 30 days without pay. After a hearing, an administrative law judge upheld several of the charges and recommended that the plaintiff be suspended for a period of 30 days, to be satisfied by the prehearing suspension he had already served.

While the disciplinary charges were pending, Plaintiff commenced an action in the Supreme Court alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Supreme Court granted Plaintiff’s employer’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, which order was affirmed by the Appellate Division in Bayer v City of New York, 60 AD3d 713.

Plaintiff subsequently filed another action in Supreme Court, this time alleging age discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment in violation of Executive Law §296. Supreme Court granted Plaintiff’s employer’s motion to dismiss the complaint in the instant action on the ground that the action was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

Explaining that "Under the doctrine of res judicata, a disposition on the merits bars litigation between the same parties, or those in privity with them, of a cause of action arising out of the same transaction or series of transactions as a cause of action that either was raised or could have been raised in the prior proceeding."

Further, said the court, "The fact that causes of action may be stated separately, invoke different legal theories, or seek different relief will not permit relitigation of claims," citing Pondview Corp. v Blatt, 95 AD3d 980.

The test applied to determine if an action is ripe for application of the doctrine of res judicata is a pragmatic one, involving an analysis of how the facts are related as to time, space, origin or motivation, whether they form a convenient trial unit and whether treating them as a unit conforms to the parties' expectations or business understanding. Further, to apply the doctrine there must have been a final judgment on the merits in the prior proceeding.

Finding that Plaintiff’s causes of action arose out of the same transaction or series of transactions as those raised in the initial action. Further, said the court, as Plaintiff commenced his second action, during the pendency of the first action, all of the causes of action asserted here could have been raised in the initial action.

The bottom line: The Appellate Division held that notwithstanding the fact that the causes of action and legal theories alleged in this action are different from those alleged in the initial action, and some of the defendants are different, the Supreme Court properly granted the employer's motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the instant action was barred by the Doctrine of res judicata.

* Applying the Doctrine of Res Judicata bars a claim that has either been litigated or that could have been litigated from being litigated again.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02005.htm
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

State audits released by New York State Comptroller DiNapoli


State audits released by New York State Comptroller DiNapoli
Click on text highlighted in color to access the full report

On April 17, 2014,
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits have been issued:

New York City Department of Environmental Conservation: Controls Over Computers (Follow-Up) (2013-F-27)
An initial audit report, issued in January 2012, found that the department did not place enough priority on ensuring that computer assets were properly controlled and appropriately used. Auditors concluded that these weak management practices increased the risk that equipment may be misappropriated, or used for personal use. In a follow-up, auditors found the department has made some progress in addressing the issues identified in the initial report, but additional improvements are still needed. Of the four prior recommendations, one has been implemented, two have been partially implemented, and one has not been implemented.

State Department of Health: Medicaid Payments for Medicare Part A Beneficiaries (Follow-Up) (2013-F-16)
An initial audit report issued in September 2010 identified $14 million in potential Medicaid overpayments for claims pertaining to 2,564 individuals enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare. Auditors recommended the Department of Health (DOH) improve its detection of Medicare Part A coverage for Medicaid recipients and prevent improper payments. In a follow-up, auditors found DOH has made considerable progress in correcting the problems identified in the initial audit report. This included the recovery of approximately $22.6 million in Medicaid overpayments. Of the initial report’s four recommendations, three were implemented and one was not implemented.

State Department of Health, Medicaid Program: Improper Payments for Ancillary Services Provided During Hospital Inpatient Admissions (2012-S-160)
Ancillary services refer to health care services provided in the home, medical offices, clinics, and other freestanding sites. Medicaid claims for ancillary services are processed by eMedNY, DOH's automated claims processing and management information system. Claims are subject to various edits – automated controls within eMedNY – designed to pay Medicaid claims in accordance with Medicaid reimbursement policies. During the audit period, eMedNY identified 9,821 improper ancillary service claims totaling about $1 million that were paid and reported to DOH officials. However, at the time of audit fieldwork, DOH had not taken actions to recover these improper payments. In addition, Medicaid paid $368,000 for about 6,600 improper ancillary service claims for recipients who were also covered by Medicare.

Office of Mental Health, New York Psychiatric Center: Controls Over State Resources (Follow-Up) (2013-F-22)
The New York State Psychiatric Institute, established in 1895, is one of two clinical research facilities administered by the Office of Mental Health. The institute conducts clinical trials and research studies relating to the treatment of mental illness. An initial audit report, issued in January 2011, found institute management had not always provided adequate control over state resources. Auditors found insufficient controls to ensure institute employees performed state work commensurate with their pay, and the institute was not taking steps to ensure it was receiving fair compensation for use of its facilities by Columbia University. In a follow-up, auditors found institute officials have made some progress in addressing the issues identified in the initial report, but additional improvements are needed. Of the seven prior recommendations, one has been implemented and six have been partially implemented.

State Department of Transportation: Oversight of Grants (Follow-up) (2013-F-29)
An initial report, issued in July 2011, examined the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) oversight of grant activity. Auditors found that the monitoring performed by the Freight and Passenger Rail Bureau and the Aviation Bureau could be improved with more effective analysis of available data, and through more effective communication and information sharing within the DOT and with other state agencies that also provide grant funding. In a follow-up, auditors found DOT has made progress in correcting the problems identified in the initial report. Of the eight prior audit recommendations, three recommendations have been implemented and five recommendations have been partially implemented. DOT is awaiting implementation of a new statewide grants management system, scheduled for April 2014, which it believes will address several of the remaining issues. 
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Terminated noncompetitive class employee having less than five years of service entitled to back pay and benefits under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement


Terminated noncompetitive class employee having less than five years of service entitled to back pay and benefits under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement
2014 NY Slip Op 02061, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Board of Education adopted the recommendation of a Civil Service Law §75 hearing officer finding the employee [Petitioner] guilty of misconduct and terminating her employment as a teacher's aid without back pay and employment benefits.

Petitioner initiated an Article 78 action challenging the Board’s decision in which she claimed, among other things, that she was entitled to certain back pay and employment benefits.

The Appellate Division held that Supreme Court had properly granted that branch of the Petitioner’s claim that sought an award of back pay and employment benefits.

The court explained that while Petitioner had less than the five years of continuous service which would ordinarily be required for her to be entitled to the protections of Civil Service Law §75,* the collective bargaining agreement between the School District and Petitioner's union extended the protections afforded by Civil Service Law §75 to noncompetitive class employees who had three years of service.

The court held that “as the Supreme Court determined,” once the arbitrator found that Petitioner satisfied the tenure requirements under the collective bargaining agreement, she was entitled to the protections of Civil Service Law §75, including back pay and benefits for any period of suspension in excess of 30 days, up to the date of the disciplinary determination by the appointing authority terminating her employment.

* See Civil Service Law §75[1][c]), which provides, in pertinent part, that an employee “holding a position in the non-competitive class … who since his [or her] last entry into service has completed at least five years of continuous service in the non-competitive class ….” is covered by the provisions of §75.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02061.htm


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Statute providing for a “presumption” that a disabling condition was incurred in the performance of duty to be read narrowly



Statute providing for a “presumption” that a disabling condition was incurred in the performance of duty to be read narrowly
Anonymous v Kelly, 2014 NY Slip Op 02141, Appellate Division, First Department

Rejection of Anonymous’ application for accidental disability retirement benefits was affirmed by Appellate Division, vacating a ruling by Supreme Court remanding the matter to the Retirement System’s Board of Trustees.

The court said that Supreme Court “incorrectly found that [Anonymous] was entitled to the presumption of General Municipal Law §207-p, thereby improperly shifting the burden of proof as to causation to the employer.

General Municipal Law §207-p provides, in pertinent part, that "any paid member of a . . . police department . . . who successfully passed a physical examination upon entry into the service of such department who contracts HIV [parenthetical omitted], tuberculosis or hepatitis, will be presumed to have contracted such disease as a natural or proximate result of an accidental injury received in the performance and discharge of his or her duties . . ., unless the contrary be provided by competent evidence."

Although Anonymous did not suffer from any of the three diseases named in the statute, Supreme Court found that his "illness was the type that the 207-p presumption was intended to cover."

However, said the Appellate Division, “the plain language of the statute makes it clear that the presumption is only applicable to the three named diseases.” Accordingly, said the court, it was Anonymous' burden to prove that his condition was caused by an accidental line-of-duty injury, not the employer’s burden to demonstrate that his condition was not caused by an accidental line-of-duty injury.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder and other disability retirement issues is available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click on http://section207.blogspot.com/ for additional information about this electronic reference manual.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Official misconduct


Official misconduct
OATH Index Nos. 1679/13, 1680/13, 1681/13

Two job center directors and a deputy director were charged with improperly transferring cases from other job centers in order to increase their own center’s job placement statistics.

The employees admitted that they participated in the scheme but that they did so under pressure of meeting agency-wide goals. OATH Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner found that the employees had violated agency rules.
Judge Spooner denied the employees’ motion to dismiss a portion of the charges as time-barred, finding respondents’ conduct fell within the crimes exception to the 18-month limitations period in §75 of the Civil Service Law, i.e, the employees had committed the crimes of official misconduct and computer tampering.

ALJ Spooner recommended dismissal of charges that respondents violated the Conflicts of Interest Law since there was no proof that they gained a private or personal advantage from the transfers.

As to the penalty to be imposed, the ALJ recommended termination of employees’ employment as their participation in the scheme for as long as three years “was an egregious violation of the trust placed in them as managers, as well as their fundamental responsibility as civil servants.”  

The decision is posted on the Internet at: 
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Former Lt. Gov. Ravitch to Address Fiscal Challenges Facing Local Governments


Former Lt. Gov. Ravitch to Address Fiscal Challenges Facing Local Governments

Former New York State Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch will deliver a talk on “The Fiscal Challenges Facing Local Governments” for the 2014 Edwin L. Crawford Memorial Lecture on Municipal Law, to be held at Albany Law School on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at 4:00 p.m.

The event, hosted by the law school’s Government Law Center (GLC), will also include a book signing for Ravitch’s new book, So Much to Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics, and Confronting Fiscal Crises.

Ravitch, an attorney who served as the state’s 75th lieutenant governor from 2009 to 2010, has served as chair of the New York State Urban Development Corporation, HRH Construction Corporation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Bowery Savings Bank. He has also served as co-chair of the Task Force on the State Budget Crisis, which analyzed the fiscal sustainability of six states, including New York.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

To register, or for more information, contact agunn@albanylaw.edu or telephone 518-445-2329.

The GLC established the Edwin L. Crawford Memorial Lecture on Municipal Law in 1996 to honor the memory of Edwin L. Crawford, former executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. The program strives to educate and promote dialog on important and timely issues affecting local governments.

The Crawford Lecture was originally endowed with a generous grant from Saratoga Associates. This year’s program is also being co-sponsored by the New York State Association of Counties, the Association of Towns of the State of New York, and the New York State Conference of Mayors.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Employee’s purported unresponsive answers to interrogatories used as a defense in disciplinary action


Employee’s purported unresponsive answers to interrogatories used as a defense in disciplinary action
OATH Index No. 876/14

The employer moved to preclude the employee from offering a defense to disciplinary charges based upon employee’s purported unresponsive answers to interrogatories.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Faye Lewis denied the employer’s motion explaining that interrogatories are an extraordinary discovery device, permissible only upon application for good cause shown.*

Under OATH’s rules of practice, the failure to comply with a discovery order may result in sanctions, including preclusion of evidence. Here, however, Judge Lewis found that the employee did not fail to comply with a discovery order. Rather, said the ALJ, the employee voluntarily answered the interrogatories, albeit not to employer’s satisfaction.

* Although Civil Service Law Section §75 does not provide for discovery in connection with a disciplinary hearing, Education Law §3020-a provides for demanding a “bill of particulars”. A contract disciplinary procedure negotiated pursuant to the Taylor Law may provide for “discovery.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/11_Cases/14-876md.pdf
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nonresident attorney's right to practice law in New York State


Nonresident attorney's right to practice law in New York State
Schoenefeld v. State of New York, et al., USCA, 11-4283-cv

The U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, held that Section 470 of the Judiciary Law, which requires nonresident attorneys to maintain an “office for the transaction of law business” within the state of New York in order to practice in New York courts, places an impermissible burden on Ms. Schoenefeld’s fundamental right to practice law and that the state “failed to establish either a substantial state interest advanced by [the statute], or a substantial relationship between the statute and that interest” [Schoenefeld v. New York, 907 F. Supp. 2d 252, (N.D.N.Y. 2011)].

The State appealed and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, certified the following question to the State’s Court of Appeals:

Under New York Judiciary Law Section 470, which mandates that a nonresident attorney maintain an "office for the transaction of law business" within the state of New York, what are the minimum requirements necessary to satisfy that mandate?

The Circuit panel retained jurisdiction to decide the case “once we have the benefit of the views of the New York Court of Appeals or once that court declines to accept certification."

The Second Circuit Court’s ruling is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/7ad54af4-96b8-488a-b70c-22bc07f8de82/7/doc/11-4283_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/7ad54af4-96b8-488a-b70c-22bc07f8de82/7/hilite/
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Perceived disability

Perceived disability
Widomski v. Orange County Community College*
Source: Justica Daily Summaries- Education

Plaintiff filed suit against OCCC, alleging claims of discrimination on the basis of a "perceived disability" and retaliation in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.

The district court concluded that plaintiff, who was enrolled in OCCC's medical Laboratory Technology program, failed to establish that OCCC perceived his shaking hands to substantially limit a major life activity, and granted the motion for summary judgment in favor of OCCC as to the ADA discrimination claim.

The district court also granted summary judgment in favor of OCCC on the retaliation claim because plaintiff had not presented any evidence that OCCC's good faith belief that plaintiff had falsified documents was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the disciplinary referral.

The court concluded that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that OCCC perceived him as having an impairment that substantially limited a major life activity; plaintiff failed to demonstrate that OCCC's explanation for its decision to bring disciplinary proceedings against him was pretext for retaliation; and plaintiff's remaining arguments were without merit.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.


* USCA, 2nd Circuit. The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/5e9e16b6-b8c0-43c6-b8d8-4adfffde611b/6/doc/13-1367_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/5e9e16b6-b8c0-43c6-b8d8-4adfffde611b/6/hilite/
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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/

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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