Thursday, February 11, 2016

Factual findings made in a disciplinary hearing have a collateral estoppel effect where the individual had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the alleged misconduct at that hearing


Factual findings made in a disciplinary hearing have a collateral estoppel effect where the individual had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the alleged misconduct at that hearing
Matter of Hopton (Commissioner of Labor), 2016 NY Slip Op 00743, Appellate Division, Third Department

Nina Hopton, a correction officer, was served with disciplinary charges alleging that she had violated her employer's rules [1] by having an improper personal relationship with an inmate and [2] by giving false statements to investigators regarding that relationship.

Following a disciplinary hearing held in accordance with Civil Service Law §75, an Administrative Law Judge found there was evidence sufficient to support the bulk of the charges filed against Hopton and recommended that she be dismissed from her position. The appointing authority accepted the findings and recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge and terminated Hopton employment.

Hopton applied for unemployment insurance benefits but the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board [Board] denied her claim on the ground that she lost her employment due to misconduct. Hopton appealed the Board’s ruling.

The Appellate Division sustained the Board’s decision, explaining that the Board “properly gave collateral estoppel effect to the factual findings stemming from the disciplinary hearing inasmuch as the record establishes that [Hopton] had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of misconduct at that hearing."

Although Hopton contended that she was appealing the disciplinary determination, the Appellate Division said that such an appeal “does not preclude the application of collateral estoppel.” In any event, said the court, the Board “drew its own conclusions that [Hopton’s] behavior, which involved violations of known policies of the employer and were detrimental to the employer's best interest, constituted disqualifying misconduct for the purpose of [eligibility for] unemployment insurance benefits."

Finding that substantial evidence supported the Board's decision, the Appellate Division said “it will not be disturbed.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2016/2016_00743.htm
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