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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Collateral estoppel effect given to the factual findings of the hearing officer made in the course of an administrative hearing


Collateral estoppel effect given to the factual findings of the hearing officer made in the course of an administrative hearing
Matter of Mykhaskiv (Westhampton Beach Union Free Sch. Dist.--Commissioner of Labor), 2016 NY Slip Op 05214, Appellate Division, Third Department

Oksana Mykhaskiv appealed a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board after it ruled that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits after determining that the Westhampton Beach Union Free School District had terminated Mykhaskiv employment due to her misconduct.

Mykhaskiv had been employed as a custodian with a school district. Several charges were preferred against her alleging misconduct and neglect of duty. The specifications set out in disciplinary charges filed against her included allegations that she failed to comply with her supervisor's directive to assist in cleaning an area assigned to another coworker who was absent from work.

In the disciplinary hearing held pursuant to Civil Service Law §75, the Hearing Officer sustained, among other things, the charge that Mykhaskiv was guilty of misconduct, finding that she refused to comply with her supervisor's directive to clean a particular area. Based upon the Hearing Officer's findings of fact and recommendation, Mykhaskiv was discharged from her employment for insubordinate behavior.

Subsequently the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board denied Mykhaskiv application for unemployment insurance, finding that her employment was terminated due to disqualifying misconduct. Mykhaskiv appealed the Board’s decision.

The Appellate Division said that the record indicates that Mykhaskiv had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of her misconduct at the Civil Service Law §75 hearing.

Citing Matter of Ranni [Ross], 58 NY2d 715, the Appellate Division said that at the §75 disciplinary hearing [1] Mykhaskiv was represented by an attorney, [2] had a representative from her union present and [3] was afforded an opportunity to testify, present witnesses and cross-examine the school district's witnesses. Under these circumstances, said the court, “the Board properly gave collateral estoppel effect to the factual findings of the Hearing Officer.”

In addition, the court noted that the record confirmed that the Board made its own conclusions as to whether Mykhankiv’s behavior constituted disqualifying misconduct for the purposes of determining her eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. Insubordinate behavior has been held to constitute disqualifying misconduct within the meaning of the Unemployment Insurance Law.

As substantial evidence supported the Board's finding that Mykhankiv, who had previously been warned about failing to comply with a supervisor’s directives, was disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits, the Appellate Division declined to disturb the Board's determination.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
Top of Form
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http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2016/2016_05214.htm

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