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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Requiring employees absent on sick leave to be examined by a physician designated by the employer before returning from such leave



Requiring employees absent on sick leave to be examined by a physician designated by the employer before returning from such leave
New York State Corr. Officers & Police Benevolent Assn., Inc. v New York State Dept. of Corr. & Community Supervision, 2015 NY Slip Op 01853, Appellate Division, Third Department

Supreme Court dismissed the New York State Corr. Officers & Police Benevolent Association’s [Association] application to review the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision’s [Department] decision to deny an Association member’s [Employee] request to restore sick leave credit the member used while absent on sick leave.

Employee was on an approved medical leave on November 3, and November 4, but then advised the Department that she was not returning to work on November 5, because her treating physician “prevented her from doing so,”

Employee’s supervisor told her that a note from her physician explaining her absence was required before she could return to work. Employee submitted a note from her doctor stating that she was fit to return to work as of November 8.

The Department than said that Employee had to undergo an Employee Health Services (EHS) examination before she could resume active duty. On December 10, EHS found that the Employee was fit to return to work, which she did on December 12.

Employee then requested the Department restore the 22 days of sick leave credits that Employee used in order to remain on the payroll while she awaited EHS clearance to return to work. The Department denied her request and the Association filed an Article 78 petition challenging the Department's decision, contending that such refusal constituted a violation of Civil Service Law §72(5).

The Appellate Division said that it agreed with Supreme Court’s determination that the Association’s reliance on §72(5) “fails to afford them any relief.” The court explained that nothing in the record suggests that Employee was placed on involuntary leave pursuant to Civil Service Law §72(5) and “the evidence shows that Department exercised its right — under 4 NYCRR 21.3(e)* and Article 14 of the parties' collective bargaining agreement — to subject Employee to an EHS assessment to ensure that she could properly perform her job responsibilities.”

The regulation and relevant provision set out in the collective bargaining agreement allowed Department to require Employee, following a medical absence, to be examined by a Department designated physician in order to ensure that she was capable of performing her work duties before being permitted to resume her employment.

According to the decision, Employee absented herself on sick leave and Department had not initiated the procedural steps to place Employee on “Leave for Ordinary Disability” pursuant to Civil Service Law §72(1) nor placed Employee on “Leave for Ordinary Disability involuntarily pursuant to Civil Service Law §72(5). Further, the Appellate Division said that it was not persuaded that Department’s refusal to allow Employee to return to work for weeks after her personal physician indicated that she was fit to do so constituted a de facto involuntary leave for ordinary disability within the meaning of §72(5).

* 4 NYCRR 21.3(e), which applies to employees of the State as an employer, provides that “The appointing authority may require an employee who has been absent because of personal illness, prior to and as a condition of his [or her] return to duty, to be examined, at the expense of the department or agency, by a physician designated by the appointing authority, to establish that he [or she] is not disabled from the performance of his [or her] normal duties and that his [or her] return to duty will not jeopardize the health of other employees.” A number of local civil service commissions have adopted a similar rule.

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/

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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