Thursday, February 19, 2015

Probationary employee should be given timely notice of employer’s concerns that the employee’s performance placed continued employment at risk


Probationary employee should be given timely notice of employer’s concerns that the employee’s performance placed continued employment at risk

2015 NY Slip Op 01384, Appellate Division, First Department



A Supreme Court judge denied the petition filed by a guidance counselor [Counselor] seeking to annul her unsatisfactory annual performance rating for the 2011-2012 academic year and her termination of her probationary appointment as a guidance counselor.



The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court’s decision “on the law” and granted Counselor’s petition to annul the unsatisfactory rating, annulled the discontinuance of her probationary employment and remanded the matter to the school district for further proceedings.



The court explained that the record before it demonstrated deficiencies in the performance review process resulting in Counselor’s unsatisfactory rating (U-rating) for the school year 2011-2012 that were not merely technical, but undermined the integrity and fairness of the process.



The Appellate Division said that Counselor had received a satisfactory rating for the 2010-2011 school year. She did not receive the disciplinary letters underlying the U-rating for the 2011-2012 school year until June 20, 2012, at the end of the school year. Further, said the court, Counselor’s receipt of the disciplinary letters was contemporaneous with the issuance of the U-rating and the recommendation of discontinuance of her employment, which the court characterized as providing Counselor with “scant notice of school district’s concerns about [Counselor’s] performance and [thus she] had little opportunity to improve her performance.”



The decision also noted the court’s concern that “Even assuming [Counselor] was aware, via certain email and other correspondence, of the facts and circumstances underlying the respective disciplinary letters” given to her in June 2012,”there is no evidence to suggest that these communications, made in the ordinary course of [Counselor’s] employment as a probationary guidance counselor, would have alerted her that her year-end rating or her employment was at risk. “



The Appellate Division also noted that, considering the range of dates of the incidents referred to in the disciplinary letters, no explanation has been given for the school district’s failure to bring their concerns to Counselor’s attention before June 2012.



The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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