__________________________________

Nominations sought for the Empire Star Public Service Award

This award recognizes exemplary employees of New York State serving in the Executive Branch.

Nominations must be submitted no later than December 15, 2017 and may be completed online.

For more information about the Empire Star Public Service Award, visit www.ny.gov/EmpireStarPublicService.

______________________________


To search this database type in a word or phrase in the box in the upper left and any material containing the word or phrase will be displayed for your review.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Reimbursement of improperly withheld GML §207-c benefits


Reimbursement of improperly withheld GML §207-c benefits
Baker v Clinton County, 2015 NY Slip Op 08898, Appellate Division, Third Department

Craig Baker, a correction officer with the Clinton County Sheriff's office allegedly injured at work on August 8, 2013, was placed on leave, filed a workers' compensation claim and began receiving benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c. On November 5, 2013, Baker's doctor cleared him to return to work in a light-duty capacity.

The Sheriff, however, did not allow Baker to return to work and on November 25, 2015 served him with disciplinary charges pursuant to Civil Service Law §75. The charges and specifications included allegations that Baker “had falsely reported his injuries.” Baker was suspended without pay as authorized by CSL §75 and a disciplinary hearing was held in January 2014.  Restored to the payroll on January 28, 2014, Baker was subsequently again removed from the payroll on February 12, 2014.

In March 2014, Baker filed a combined proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78 and action for declaratory judgment challenging the Sheriff's determination to terminate his General Municipal Law §207-c benefits during the pendency of the disciplinary hearing.* In its answer Clinton County argued that, among other things, Baker had forfeited his claim to recover §207-c benefits under the doctrine of "unclean hands."

Supreme Court granted Baker’s petition and directed Clinton County to pay Baker the §207-c benefits it had withheld from him. The County appealed.

The Appellate Division said that General Municipal Law §207-c provides that when a correction officer suffers a disabling injury in the line of duty, that officer is entitled to continue to receive his or her full salary during the pendency of the disability. The receipt of such benefits, said the court, "constitutes a property interest giving rise to procedural due process protection, under the Fourteenth Amendment, before those payments are terminated."

The court explained that although a municipality may discipline an officer even if that officer is receiving General Municipal Law §207-c benefits, the statutory benefit may not be withheld without a pretermination evidentiary hearing. Further, where, as is here the case, there was no negotiated §207-c administrative procedure in place, the municipality may, but is not obligated to, use the procedures set forth in Civil Service Law §75 as a means to discontinuing the statutory benefit. Thus, said the Appellate Division, “The pertinent question is whether the officer is afforded the requisite due process.”

There was no dispute that Baker’s §207-c benefits had been suspended prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing. Accordingly the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court had properly granted Baker’s petition and directed the Sheriff to restore the unlawfully withheld benefits to Baker.

The Appellate Division disagreed with the Sheriff’s argument that Supreme Court had "misappl[ied]" the unclean hands doctrine and should have dismissed Baker’s petition “based on his misconduct.” Citing National Distillers & Chem. Corp. v Seyopp Corp., 17 NY2d 12, the court explained that the unclean hands doctrine applies where "the [petitioner] is guilty of immoral, unconscionable conduct and even then only when the conduct relied on is directly related to the subject matter in litigation."

In this action, said the court, the subject matter of the proceeding was whether the County  provided Baker the process to which he was entitled prior to terminating his statutory benefits, not whether he was entitled to §207-c benefits. It noted that Baker had only contended that he was entitled to §207-c benefits during the pendency of the disciplinary hearing. Where, as here, there is a finding that an individual is terminated for misconduct, there is no legal authority to recoup the payments made to the individual prior to such a finding of misconduct.

The Appellate Division said that it did not believe that Baker was perpetuating any fraud or committing a wrongdoing by asserting his right to notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to the termination of his §207-c and that it agreed with Supreme Court that the unclean hands doctrine did not apply in this instance.

Turning to the Sheriff’s removing Baker the payroll when he was served with the §75 notice of disciplinary charges on November 25, 2013, restoring him to the payroll on January 28, 2014, then removed him again on February 12, 2014, the court noted that Baker had asked that the disciplinary hearing, initially scheduled for December 6, 2013 within the notice of disciplinary charges, be adjourn. Baker, in turn, agreed that he would be suspended without pay for up to 30 days as authorized by CSL §75[3] and further, until the hearing resumed in January 2014.

In response to the Sheriff’s contention that Supreme Court awarded excessive damages the Appellate Division said that “§207-c benefits are not wages”**and Baker did not concede or otherwise relinquish his benefit rights pursuant to §207-c. According, said the court, “we discern no error in Supreme Court's determination that reimbursement of the improperly withheld benefits was just and proper relief.”

* On April 24, 2014, the Hearing Officer issued his determination recommending that Baker be terminated based on his finding that petitioner had engaged in the misconduct as alleged and on May 2, 2014, the appointing authority terminated Baker from his employment as a correction officer.

** §207-c [“Payment of salary, wages, medical and hospital expenses”] provides that any eligible individual injured in the performance of his or her duties or who is taken sick as a result of the performance of his or her duties so as to necessitate medical or other lawful remedial treatment “shall be paid by the municipality by which he [or she] is employed the full amount of his [or her] regular salary or wages until his [or her] disability arising therefrom has ceased, and, in addition such municipality shall be liable for all medical treatment and hospital care necessitated by reason of such injury or illness.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law §§207-a/207-c and other laws, rules, regulations and court decisions addressing disability and similar leaves absence. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/3916.html
____________________  

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/

Caution:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.

THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

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 in this blog is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader should seek such advice from a competent professional.

Items published in NYPPL may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written permission to copy and distribute such material. Send your request via e-mail to publications@nycap.rr.com

Copyright© 1987 - 2017 by the Public Employment Law Press.



___________________



N.B. From time to time a political ad or endorsement may appear in the sidebar of this Blog. NYPPL does not have any control over such posting.

_____________________

.