Thursday, December 03, 2015

Employee challenging an unsatisfactory performance rating has the burden of showing that the rating was arbitrary, capricious, made in bad faith, or issued in violation of lawful procedure


Employee challenging an unsatisfactory performance rating has the burden of showing that the rating was arbitrary, capricious, made in bad faith, or issued in violation of lawful procedure
Vyas v City of New York, 2015 NY Slip Op 08360, Appellate Division, First Department

Nayana Vyas, a probationary teacher employed by New York City Department of Education [DOE], filed an Article 78 petition seeking the annulment of DOE’s denial of her appeals of her unsatisfactory ratings [U-ratings] for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. In lieu of answering Vyas' petition, DOE made a cross motion, to dismis her petition for failure to state a cause of action. Supreme Court granted DOE motion and Vyas appealed.

With respect to the 2009-2010 U-rating, the court said here the Vyas’ primary complaint was that her evaluation based on assignments to teach science classes, which were outside her area of certification (mathematics). Citing 8 NYCRR §30-1.9[c], the Appellate Division said that DOE was permitted to assign Vyas to teach science classes notwithstanding that her certification was in mathematics, explaining that “Rules of the Board of Regents that prohibits assigning a teacher ‘to devote a substantial portion of [her] time in a tenure area other than that in which [she] has acquired tenure or is in probationary status, without [her] prior written consent’ [is not] applicable to city school districts located within cities having a population in excess of 400,000 inhabitants" such as DOE.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division ruled that DOE was entitled to make the teaching assignment challenged by Vyas and DOE’s evaluation of Vyas based on her performance in that assignment “does not give rise to an inference that the resulting U-ratings were arbitrary, capricious, or made in bad faith, nor were the U-ratings issued in violation of lawful procedure.”

In addition, the court noted that because Vyas was a probationary teacher she could have been discharged at any time, for any lawful reason or no reason at all and “bad faith cannot be inferred from the fact that the U-rating was issued after the school principal insisted that [Vyas] sign an agreement consenting to an additional year of probation to avoid being discharged.”

Turning to Vyas’ challenge to her U-rating for the 2010-2011 school year, the Appellate Division said Vyas contended that it was given in retaliation for her having filed a complaint with the State Department of Education against the principal who issued her U-rating for the previous year, when she was teaching at a different school.” 

However, the court decided that this allegation failed to state a cause of action for annulment of the rating because Vyas’ “imputation of a retaliatory motive for the U-rating is entirely speculative” and the specific facts alleged do not give rise to a fair inference that the U-rating was improperly motivated.

Further, said the Appellate Division, Vyas admitted that she was assigned to teach within her area of certification during the 2010-2011 school year and she did not make any allegation of “procedural irregularities that might have undermined the integrity or fairness of the rating process for that year.”

Finding that Vyas had not pleaded any specific facts giving rise to a fair inference that the U-ratings were arbitrary, capricious, made in bad faith, or issued in violation of lawful procedure, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court properly granted the cross motion and dismissed the petition.

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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