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January 25, 2016

Employee dismissed pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law for incompetency based on excessive absenteeism


Employee dismissed pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law for incompetency based on excessive absenteeism
Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority v Beverly, OATH Index No. 2238/15

The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority filed disciplinary charges pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law against Bruce Beverly, a Bridge and Tunnel Officer, alleging incompetency due to his excessive absenteeism from work. In rebuttal, Beverly alleged that his absences were caused by a long-term disability and sought a one-year leave of absence for ordinary disability pursuant to §72 of the Civil Service Law.

ALJ Alessandra F. Zorgniotti found that Beverly, who had an absenteeism rate of 100% in 2015 and 54% in 2014, was excessively absent and ruled that even if an employee’s  absences are caused by a disability, an employer may discipline the employee for incompetence pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law when the absences are excessive and have a burdensome effect on the employer. .

In addition, Judge Zorgniotti ruled that Beverly was not entitled to a one-year leave pursuant to §72 of the Civil Service Law as there was insufficient proof that “he is currently unfit to perform his duties due to a disability.”

In support of her decision, Judge Zorgniotti cited the following decisions:

1. Brockman v. Skidmore, 39 N.Y.2d 1045 rev’g 43 A.D. 2d 572, in which the Court of Appeals reversed a finding that a government agency must treat an employee’s time–and-leave violations pursuant to CSL §72 rather than as a disciplinary matter under CSL §75 when there is evidence of a disability;

2. Garayua v. Board of Education, 248 A.D.2d 714, where the court rejected an assistant custodian’s claim that her physical incapacity and “nonwillful absenteeism” entitled her to leave pursuant to §72, rather than subjecting her to disciplinary action pursuant to §75; and

3. Romano v. Town Board of Colonie, 200 A.D.2d 934, holding that an agency may terminate an employee for excessive absence regardless of whether valid reasons existed for the absences or whether they were authorized, concluding that even if an employee’s absences are caused by a physical or mental disability, the employer may discipline and, if appropriate, terminate the employee for incompetence pursuant to CSL §75 when the absences are excessive and they have a burdensome effect upon the employer.

Considering Beverly’s “egregiously poor attendance over the past two years,” the ALJ recommended that he be terminated from employment.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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