Monday, June 15, 2015

The date on which an administrative agency's decision became final and binding on the individual triggers the running of the statute of limitations for challenging the determination



The date on which an administrative agency's decision became final and binding on the individual triggers the running of the statute of limitations for challenging the determination
School Adm'rs Assn. of N.Y. State v New York State Dept. of Civ. Serv., 124 AD3d 1174

One of the issues considered by the Appellate Division in this action concerned the timeliness of the challenge to the administrative decision made by the New York State Department of Civil Service [Department], which provided the court with an opportunity to review the question of the triggering of the running of the statute of limitations in terms of the timeliness of challenging an administrative agency’s “final decision.”

The court said that the parties had agree that for the purposes of  prosecuting this combined CPLR Article 78 proceeding and action for declaratory judgment, the four-month statute of limitations set forth in CPLR §217(1) controlled. In addressing this issue the Appellate Division explained:

1. Both the statute and case law make clear that the statute of limitations period for a CPLR Article 78 proceeding begins to run when "the determination to be reviewed becomes final and binding upon the petitioner."

2. Such determination, in turn, "becomes 'final and binding' when two requirements are met: completeness (finality) of the determination and exhaustion of administrative remedies, whereby:

a.       The agency must have reached a definitive position on the issue that inflicts actual, concrete injury and second, the injury inflicted may not be . . . significantly ameliorated by further administrative action or by steps available to the complaining party." and
 b.      In the context of quasi-legislative determinations such as the one at issue here, actual notice of the challenged determination is not required in order to start the statute of limitations clock; rather, the statute of limitations begins to run once the administrative agency's "definitive position on the issue [becomes] readily ascertainable" to the complaining party.

A May 15, 2012 policy memorandum promulgated by the Department that “redefined the class of employees” eligible to participate in “health insurance buyout programs” offered by the New York State Health Insurance Program [NYSHIP] participating agencies stated that the policy was "effective immediately." While the May 15, 2012 memorandum contained a "grandfather clause" that, in effect, afforded a limited grace period to certain participating agencies with an existing buyout program in place, the Appellate Division said that “the presence of such clause did not render the decision of the Department of Civil Service as to employee eligibility any less final” nor did it render the injury allegedly suffered by individuals subject to its provisions any less concrete.

The Appellate Division concluded that the policy memorandum constituted a "definitive position" on the issue of buyout program eligibility which the Department could not be "significantly ameliorated by further administrative action."

As to the actual date upon which the four-month statute of limitations commenced to run, the court agreed with the Department that the "readily ascertainable" requirement is styled as a constructive notice standard, there by obviating the need for an actual delivery of an “in-hand notice” of the underlying determination to individuals affected by the change.

The Department described its procedure in disseminating its May 15, 2012 policy memorandum as including mailing copies of the policy to the chief executive officers of all NYSHIP participating agencies, as well as to any individual who had requested a copy via the participating agency; posting the memorandum on a website for health benefit administrators and discussing the memorandum at the participating agency regional meetings hosted by the Department of Civil Service in October 2012.

Under these circumstances, said the Appellate Division, it was of the view that a petitioners' claims accrued, and the statute of limitations began to run, upon the effective date of the policy memorandum -- May 15, 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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