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March 27, 2015

Some guidelines followed by courts in deciding appeals from adverse out-of-title employee grievances


Some guidelines followed by courts in deciding appeals from adverse out-of-title employee grievances
New York State Corr. Officers & Police Benevolent Assn., Inc. v Governor's Off. of Empl. Relations, 2015 NY Slip Op 02543, Appellate Division, Third Department

Civil Service Law §61(2) provides, in relevant part, that "no person shall be assigned to perform the duties of any position unless he [or she] has been duly appointed, promoted, transferred or reinstated to such position in accordance with [the statute] and the rules prescribed thereunder. An out-of-title work assignment exists when an employee has been assigned or compelled to perform the duties of a higher grade, without a concomitant increase in pay, frequently, recurrently and for long periods of time"

A Safety and Security Officer 2 (SSO2), a salary grade 15 position, was advised that he would assume the duties of the Chief Safety and Security Officer (CSSO), a salary grade 20 position, at the facility upon the incumbent CSSO’s transfer to another facility. SSO2 was also told that he would be serving as the "Acting Chief" at that facility, an unofficial job title is not formally recognized by the Department of Civil Service.

The SSO2, alleging that he had performed the duties ordinarily assigned to the CSSO, filed an out-of-title work grievance seeking additional compensation for the duties he performed in his capacity as the facility's CSSO. Ultimately, the grievance proceeded to Step 3 to be considered by the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations [GOER].

Based on the limited duties listed in SSO2’s grievance form, the Division of Classification and Compensation of the Department of Civil Service (C & C) recommended that GEOR deny the grievance based on its finding that the work SSO2 was performing, in the absence of the CSSO, “either fell within the duties of an SSO2 or were a reasonable and logical outgrowth of those duties.

GOER adopted C & C’s recommendation and SSO2 initiated a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking a court order annulling GOER's determination. Supreme Court dismissed SSO2’s application, which ruling was appealed to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision. Citing CSL §61(2) the court explained that “An employee is not necessarily performing out-of-title work by fulfilling some overlapping functions of an absent supervisor, if those functions are substantially similar to duties listed in the classification standard for the employee's title.” In determining if the prohibition against out-of-title work has been violated, courts look "at the similarities between the duties assigned and those customarily performed by the employee, the extent to which the employee exercised the full range of duties of the higher level position, and whether the duties actually performed could be characterized as a reasonable extension of the employee's in-title duties."

Confining its review of the list of tasks performed by SSO2 set forth in his grievance form and not considering the expanded list of duties recited in the SSO2's underlying petition and SSO2’s affidavit in support his claim, the Appellate Division said that it must decide this matter based on the record that was before GOER and C & C. Finding that such record provided a rational basis for GOER's determination and that GOER’s determination was not arbitrary or capricious, the Appellate Division dismissed SSO2’s appeal.

SSO2 also contended that C & C and GOER acted arbitrarily and irrationally by deciding his grievance differently than that of another Safety and Security Officer 2 who was assigned to serve as the Acting CSSO at a different facility. However, this other Safety and Security Officer 2 asserted on her grievance form that she performed many more of the CSSO duties and stated that she, among other things,” supervised all 28 employees of her safety department across all three shifts.”

Considering this enhanced information, said the court, the record substantiates GOER’s' assertions that the facts presented by those two individuals were different, rationally leading to different outcomes.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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