Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hearing officer considers failed efforts at “progressive discipline” in setting disciplinary penalty


Hearing officer considers failed efforts at “progressive discipline” in setting disciplinary penalty
OATH Index No. 1721/16

The New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) served disciplinary charges against Carey Bryant, a clerical associate, alleging Bryant was guilty of being late to work excessively, several instances of discourtesy, threatening and disruptive conduct, and making a false statement in a supervisory conference.

OATH Administrative Law Judge ALJ Noel A. Garcia held that HRA proved that Bryant was late on 53 occasions, had engaged in discourteous conduct on three occasions, was disruptive during a training class, and made a false statement during a supervisory conference.

Judge Garcia, however, found that HRA failed to prove its allegations that Bryant had engaged in other instances of discourteous conduct. The ALJ explained that HRA did not provide any corroboration to support the statements it alleged Bryant had made nor did not specify Bryant’s words or actions it alleged were discourtesy or threatening.

The ALJ requested and received Bryant’s personnel history.* The record indicated Bryant had been served with disciplinary charges on a number of occasions resulting, respectively in [1] a 5-day suspension without pay for using obscene and abusive language directed towards a supervisor; [2] a 10-day suspension  without pay for using “obscene and abusive language, oral threats and discourteous conduct; [3] a 45-day suspension without pay for using abusive language, discourteous conduct, making oral threats, insubordination, and failing to comply with time and leave regulations; and, ultimately, [4] a 60-day suspension without pay for using obscene or abusive language, making oral threats, and discourteous conduct.

Judge Garcia found that Bryant had repeatedly engaged in discourteous, threatening and unprofessional conduct. Despite accepting longer and longer suspensions for such behavior, Bryant conduct did not improve. Further, said the ALJ, “Even when [Bryant] admitted at trial to making statements that undermined his superiors, or to making inappropriate comments regarding potential workplace violence, [Bryant] never took any responsibility for any of his actions, or expressed any regret.

According, due to Bryant’s poor disciplinary history and his continued unwillingness to follow agency rules or behave in a professional manner, Judge Garcia recommended Bryant’s termination from his position as the appropriate penalty for his misconduct.

* In Bigelow v Village of Gouverneur, 63 NY2d 470, the Court of Appeals said that such records could be used to determine the penalty to be imposed if [1] the individual is advised that his or her prior disciplinary record would be considered in setting the penalty to be imposed, and [2] the employee is given an opportunity to submit a written response to any material he or she deemed “adverse” contained in the record or an opportunity to offer “mitigating circumstances.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/oath/16_cases/16-1721.pdf

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