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Friday, June 30, 2017

Determining if the parties agreed to resolve a particular grievance pursuant to the terms of the arbitration clause set out in a collective bargaining agreement


Determining if the parties agreed to resolve a particular grievance pursuant to the terms of the arbitration clause set out in a collective bargaining agreement
County of Monroe (Civil Serv. Employees Assn., Inc., Local 828, Unit 7423, 2017 NY Slip Op 04602, Appellate Division, 4th Department

Civil Service Employees Association, Inc., Local 828, Unit 7423 [7423] filed a grievance on behalf of certain retired former employees of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, all of whom retired prior to January 1, 2000, when a collective bargaining agreement [CBA] that covered the period between 1994 through 1999 was in effect.

The grievance alleging that Monroe County had had violated the CBA by unilaterally changing the subject retirees' post-Medicare health insurance benefits.

Monroe County contended that any such alleged unilateral change was subject to resolution pursuant to the grievance and arbitration procedure set out in the 2009-2012 CBA. 7423, however, denied that the parties had agreed to resolve retiree health insurance benefit disputes for those retiring prior to January 1, 2000, by submitting it to the grievance and arbitration procedure set out in the 2009-2012 CBA.

When Monroe County demanded arbitration pursuant to the 2009-2012 CBA, 7423 commenced this proceeding, and the County cross-moved to compel arbitration. Supreme Court granted 7423's petition, permanently staying arbitration, and denied the County's cross motion to compel arbitration. Monroe County appealed but the Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court's ruling.

Citing City of Buffalo v A.F.S.C.M.E. Council 35, Local 264, 107 AD2d 1049, the Appellate Division, agreeing with Supreme Court, concluded that the rights of the subject retirees are governed by the 1994-1999 CBA, which was in effect when they retired.

Then, in order to determine whether the grievance was arbitrable under the 1994-1999 CBA, the Appellate Division initiated "the requisite two-step inquiry." As to the first step of its inquiry - was there any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance -- the Appellate Division said " it is undisputed that there is no prohibition against arbitration of the grievance."

The court then considered the "second step" of the inquiry -  "... whether the parties did agree by the terms of their particular arbitration clause to refer their differences in this specific area to arbitration."

Addressing this second element of the "two-step inquiry," the Appellate Division concluded that Supreme Court had properly determined that the parties did not agree to refer to arbitration retiree health benefit disputes raised by former employees who had retired prior to January 1, 2000.

The decision of the Appellate Division notes that that a "grievance clause in the 1994-1999 CBA" specifically excludes retirement benefits from the grievance and arbitration procedure. Accordingly, the court dismissed Monroe County's appeal, sustaining Supreme Court's order granting 7423's petition to stay arbitration and denying the County's cross-motion to compel arbitration.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A police officer holds a position of great sensitivity and trust and is subject to a higher standard of fitness and character are "ordinary civil servants"


A police officer holds a position of great sensitivity and trust and is subject to a higher standard of fitness and character are "ordinary civil servants"
Oliver v D'Amico, 2017 NY Slip Op 04596, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

A former New York State Trooper, Jean Oliver, commenced a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking to annul Commissioner of State Police's determination finding her guilty of certain disciplinary charges or, in the alternative, to vacate the penalty of dismissal imposed upon her. Oliver contended that the Superintendent's determination was not supported by substantial evidence and that the penalty of dismissal is "shocking to one's sense of fairness."

Citing Wilson v City of White Plains, 95 NY2d 783, the Appellate Division sustained the Superintendent's determination, explaining that "It is well established that, '[i]n CPLR Article 78 proceedings to review decisions of administrative tribunals, the standard of review for the Appellate Divisions ... is whether there was substantial evidence to support the Hearing Officer's decision.'" The court found that, contrary to Oliver's contention, the Superintendent's determination was supported by substantial evidence.

Although Oliver also argued that the hearing panel had improperly expanded the charge in Charge number one by expanding the scope of the alleged order from an order to refrain from working on certain cases she had been assigned while at CNET to an order to refrain from working on related cases or being involved in "any matters related to her previous work, the Appellate Division rejected her contention, noting that Charge number one was "reasonably specific, in light of all the relevant circumstances, to apprise [Oliver] . . . of the charges against [her] . . . and to allow for the preparation of an adequate defense." Further, said the court, the evidence at the hearing established that "[Oliver's] guilt was based only on violations that were charged."*

As to the penalty imposed, dismissal, the court, quoting from Kelly, 96 NY2d at 38,  concluded that the penalty of termination is not shocking to one's sense of fairness noting that "Judicial review of an administrative penalty is limited to whether the measure or mode of penalty or discipline imposed constitutes an abuse of discretion as a matter of law . . . [T]he Appellate Division is subject to the same constraints as th[e] Court [of Appeals]—a penalty must be upheld unless it is so disproportionate to the offense as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness,' thus constituting an abuse of discretion as a matter of law."

Of critical importance, said the Appellate Division, is the principal that "a State Trooper holds a position of great sensitivity and trust . . . and [a] higher standard of fitness and character pertains to police officers than to ordinary civil servants." Thus, given the conduct underlying the offenses -- directly disobeying an order and making false statements in an Internal Affairs interview and on official police records, and Oliver's refusal to accept any responsibility for her conduct. Accordingly, the court concluded that it could not say that the penalty of dismissal shocks its sense of fairness.

Finally, the court said it recognized that the allegations against Oliver did not involve any harm to the public, any misconduct for her personal gain or official corruption. It also noted that charges herein "were filed following petitioner's initial complaints of discrimination and that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has since found that "there is reasonable cause to believe that [the New York State Police] has discriminated against [petitioner] on account of her gender and in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity."

However, said the Appellate Division, its review of the penalty is extremely limited and it does not have any "discretionary authority or interest of justice jurisdiction in reviewing the penalty imposed."

* Oliver also argued that the hearing panel failed to consider the retaliatory motive of the disciplinary charges in violation of Civil Service Law §75-b, the so-called "whistle blower statute." The Appellate Division said that she failed to raise that contention in her petition and thus that contention was "not properly" before it.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

_____________________

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - The text of this publication focuses on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition, and as an e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html
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Recent Decisions by OATH Administrative Law Judges


Recent Decisions by OATH Administrative Law Judges
Source: NYC Office of Tribunals and Hearings

Dismissal of disciplinary charges recommended
OATH Index Nos. 1417/17 & 1418/17

OATH Administrative Law Judge Astrid B. Gloade recommended dismissal of charges that sanitation workers used department equipment without authorization to collect refuse from a home not on their assigned route.

The ALJ found that the home was across the street from workers' assigned route and that they were scheduled to service it the next day. The workers collected refuse from the home after they completed their assigned work and there was no evidence that the refuse they collected was trade waste.

Judge Gloade found that the fact that the workers failed to obtain authorization before collecting the refuse was too minor to warrant a sanction.  

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Termination of hospital dietician recommended
OATH Index No. 282/17

OATH Administrative Law Judge Noel R. Garcia recommended termination of a hospital dietician for "misconduct and/or incompetence" after finding that the dietician failed to competently perform nutrition assessments for several patients over a six-month period, including recommending oral diets for patients who were on “nothing by mouth” status, recommending a tube feeding formula with insufficient calories for a patient who was severely malnourished, and failing to complete accurate assessments for high risk patients, placing patients’ health at risk.

Judge Garcia was not persuaded by the dietician's contention that he had a  "high volume of work," concluding that "To the extent [the dietician] attempted to justify any of [his acts, omissions or errors] by blaming an alleged high volume of work, such argument is without merit."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/oath/17_cases/17-282.pdf

 _________________


The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public officers and employees in New York State set out as an e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

 _________________


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Spoliation of evidence


Spoliation of evidence
Burke v Queen of Heaven R.C. Elementary Sch., 2017 NY Slip Op 04593, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Kelly Burke commenced this action seeking damages for injuries that she sustained when she slipped and fell on stairs at a facility owned and operated by Queen of Heaven R.C. Elementary School [Defendant] and sought partial summary judgment as to liability against Defendant on the ground Defendant had destroyed and replaced the stairs after Burke had notified Defendants of her intent to have her expert inspect the stairs, contending that such destruction and replacement of the stairs in question constituted "spoliation of evidence".

With respect to "spoilage", the Appellate Division noted that "Where the evidence is determined to have been intentionally or wil[l]fully destroyed, the relevancy of the destroyed [evidence] is presumed." In contrast, if the evidence is determined to have been negligently destroyed, the party seeking spoliation sanctions must establish that the destroyed [evidence was] relevant to the party's claim or defense."

In order to obtain sanctions for spoliation of evidence, the plaintiff had the burden of showing that [1] the party having control over the evidence possessed an obligation to preserve it at the time of its destruction, [2] the evidence was destroyed with a culpable state of mind, and [3] the destroyed evidence was relevant to the party's claim or defense such that the trier of fact could find that the evidence would support that claim or defense.

Defendant conceded that the original condition of the stairway was relevant.

Noting that Defendant had an obligation to preserve the condition of the stairs existed because litigation had begun at the time the stairs were replaced, the Appellate Division agreed with Burke that she met her burden of establishing that Defendant destroyed the stairs with a culpable state of mind.

As Supreme Court had "properly concluded" that Defendant's culpable state of mind was evidenced by its destruction of the stairs during the parties' ongoing debate about whether Burke had to disclose the name of her expert to Defendant before Defendant would agree to the inspection, the Appellate Division said it agreed with Burke that the  imposition of a sanction against Defendant for spoliation of evidence was warranted here.

As to granting Burke partial summary judgment on liability based on Defendant's destruction of the stairway, the Appellate Division, citing Sarach v M & T Bank Corp., 140 AD3d 1721, explained that  in deciding to impose sanctions, and what particular sanction to impose, courts look to the extent that the spoliation of evidence may prejudice a party, and whether a particular sanction is necessary as a matter of elementary fairness.

Observing that "It is well established that a less drastic sanction than dismissal of the responsible party's pleading may be imposed where [, as here,] the loss does not deprive the nonresponsible party of the means of establishing his or her claim or defense ... the record does not demonstrate that [Burke] has been left 'prejudicially bereft' of the means of prosecuting her action." Accordingly, the Appellate Division ruled that "given that [Burke] has in her possession, among other evidence of the condition of the stairs, photographs of the stairs taken after the commencement of this action, "an appropriate sanction is that an adverse inference charge be given at trial with respect to any now unavailable evidence of the condition of the stairs."

In contrast, in some instances the destruction of records will not be deemed to be subject to sanctions for "spoilage."

In Matter of Klikocki (NY Department of Corrections, Mount McGregor), 216 AD2d 808, the Appellate Division decided that evidence Klikocki claimed would be helpful in his defense in a disciplinary action that the employer had destroyed had not been destroyed in an effort to conceal something but rather occurred in accordance with the normal procedure concerning the retention or destruction of certain records after they had been retained for a specified period of time.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New York courts use a "two-prong" test to determine if a dispute between a public sector employer and public sector employees may be submitted to arbitration



New York courts use a "two-prong" test to determine if a dispute between a public sector employer and public sector employees may be submitted to arbitration
Village of Garden City v Professional Firefighters Assn. of Nassau County, Local 1588, 2017 NY Slip Op 04849, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Village of Garden City sought to permanently stay arbitration of an alleged violations of a collective bargaining agreement [CBA] demanded by the employee organization, contending that the grievance at issue was not subject to arbitration because [1] the provisions alleged to have been violated were not a part of the parties' CBA; [2] the provisions involved did not contain its own arbitration clause; [3] the matters in dispute were not binding due to improper execution or expiration; and [4] public policy barred arbitration of the dispute.

In contrast, the Association moved to compel arbitration, arguing that the agreements it relied upon in its demand for arbitration constituted an addendum to the CBA and, thus, were subject to arbitration.

The Supreme Court determined that [1] arbitration of the dispute was not against public policy and [2] that the dispute was subject to the arbitration provisions in the parties' CBA. The Village appealed Supreme Court's granting the Association's motion to compel arbitration.

Citing Locust Val. Cent. Sch. Dist. v Benstock, 144 AD3d 758, the Appellate Division said that "The determination of whether a dispute between a public sector employer and [its] employee is arbitrable is subject to [a] two-prong test."

First, the court must determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration [of] the grievance."

Second, should the court determine that there is no such prohibition against arbitrating the dispute, it must examine the parties' collective bargaining agreement and determine if they, in fact, agreed to arbitrate the particular matter in dispute.

The Appellate Division then explained that in examining the collective bargaining agreement the court merely determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the agreement. Should the court rule the matter arbitrable, the arbitrator will then make a more exacting interpretation of the precise scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA and whether the subject matter of the dispute fits within them.

Further, the Appellate Division observed that a court "may not consider whether the claim with respect to which arbitration is sought is tenable, or otherwise pass upon the merits of the dispute."

In this instance the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court correctly held that public policy does not prohibit arbitration of the Association's grievance alleging that the Village violated certain procedures and that it also correctly held that the Association's grievance was reasonably related to the general subject matter of the CBA. Thus, the question of the scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA is a matter of contract interpretation and application reserved for the arbitrator.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division sustained the lower court's granting the Association's motion to compel arbitration.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Should an entity grants a request to postpone an administrative hearing, it is required take appropriate action to reschedule the hearing


Should an entity grants a request to postpone an administrative hearing, it is required take appropriate action to reschedule the hearing
Doe v Onondaga County, 2017 NY Slip Op 04697, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Jane Doe initiated an Article 78 action against Onondaga County and the Onondaga County Department of Social Services [Onondaga County].

Onondaga County asked Supreme Court to dismiss Doe's complaint contending Doe failed to comply with the provisions set out General Municipal Law §50-h as she failed to comply with its demand for a hearing pursuant to General Municipal Law §50-h.

Supreme Court denied Onondaga County's motion and the County appealed.

Citing Legal Servs. for the Elderly, Disabled, or Disadvantaged of W. N.Y., Inc. v County of Erie, 125 AD3d 1321, the Appellate Division said that "It is well settled that a plaintiff who has not complied with [the requirements set out in] General Municipal Law §50-h(5) is precluded from maintaining an action against a [county]."

However, §50-h(5) also provides, as here relevant, that "[t]he action, however, may not be commenced until compliance with the demand for examination if the claimant fails to appear at the hearing or requests an adjournment or postponement beyond the ninety day period. If the claimant requests an adjournment or postponement beyond the ninety day period, the city, county, town, village, fire district or school district shall reschedule the hearing for the earliest possible date available."

The Appellate Division pointed out that Doe was in compliance with the statute as after Onondaga County demanded a General Municipal Law §50-h(5) hearing, Doe requested and was granted an adjournment of that hearing.

Contrary to the Onondaga County's contention, the Appellate Division said that it was incumbent upon the County to reschedule the adjourned hearing. Accordingly Supreme Court correctly denied Onondaga County's motion to dismiss Doe's petition.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Determining if a complaint alleging sexual harassment based a claim of a continuing violation of New York State's Human Rights Law is timely


Determining if a complaint alleging sexual harassment based a claim of a continuing violation of New York State's Human Rights Law is timely
Lozada v Elmont Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1, 2017 NY Slip Op 04845, Appellate Division, Second Department

Beatrice Lozada, a former volunteer firefighter with the Elmont Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 [Elmont], filed administrative complaints against Elmont with the New York State Division of Human Rights [DHR] alleging that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment as the result of sexual harassment.

After a hearing, the DHR Adjudication Counsel [AC] determined that although the acts of sexual harassment that occurred during Lozada's early service with Elmont "clearly" constituted a hostile work environment, those acts occurred outside of the applicable one-year statute of limitations period set out in Executive Law §297(5). In addition, the AC determined that Lozada had failed to establish a continuing violation concluding that her hostile work environment claim was time-barred.

The Commissioner adopted the AC's findings and recommendation that Lozada's complaint be dismissed. In response, Lozada initiated an Article 78 proceeding challenging the Commissioner's decision with respect to the Commissioner's finding that her hostile work environment claim based upon sexual harassment was untimely.

The Appellate Division sustained the Commissioner's decision, which it found was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary and capricious. The court explained that a review of the record demonstrated that the Commissioner's determination that Lozada failed to establish a continuing violation and thus her sexual harassment claim based a hostile work environment relying the Doctrine of Continuing Violation was misplaced. 
    
Although Lozada did establish the existence of a hostile work environment based on incidents of sexual harassment, the court noted that those incidents occurred outside the limitations period and Lozada failed to prove that a specified related incident took place within the limitations period required to invoke the Continuing Violation Doctrine.

The court explained that a hostile work environment claim is subject to a one-year statute of limitations and a hostile work environment claim, by its very nature, is predicated on a series of separate acts that collectively constitute an unlawful discriminatory practice.

Case law considering the Doctrine of a Continuing Violation indicates that the Doctrine is triggered even though one or more of those unlawful acts might have occurred outside of the limitations period so long as at least one of unlawful acts occurred within the limitations period.

Considering the viability of relying on the Doctrine of Continuing Violation in adjudicating a hostile work environment claim, in Strauss v New York State Dept. of Educ., 26 AD3d 67, the court held that "[i]n the case of a hostile work environment claim, the statute of limitations requires that only one sexually harassing act demonstrating the challenged work environment occur within [the statutory period]" and that "once that is shown, a court . . . may consider the entire time period of the hostile environment in determining liability."

Finding that there was no basis to vacate the Commissioner's determination in this instance, the Appellate Division dismissed Lozada's appeal.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Friday, June 23, 2017

OATH disciplinary hearing held in absentia



OATH disciplinary hearing held in absentia 
OATH Index #728/17

A tax auditor was charged with misconduct and incompetence for performing her duties in an inefficient manner, being discourteous to her supervisor, and time and leave violations.

The auditor failed to appear at trial and the matter proceeded by inquest. Based on credible testimony from a supervisor and documentary evidence, ALJ Addison sustained the charges.

Judge Addison found that the auditor’s persistent unwillingness to perform her tasks constituted incompetence as well as misconduct and recommended that the auditor be terminated from her employment.

Posted on the Internet at:

__________________ 

The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public officers and employees in New York State set out as an e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

__________________ 

Educator terminated for a continuing pattern of inappropriate behavior involving students



Educator terminated for a continuing pattern of inappropriate behavior involving students
Vagianos v City of New York, 2017 NY Slip Op 04779, Appellate Division, First Department

Kristopher Vagianos appealed Supreme Court's dismissal of his Article 75 petition to vacate a disciplinary arbitration award that resulted his termination as a tenured school teacher.

Sustaining the lower court's ruling, the Appellate Division noted that Vagianos had been previously disciplined and found guilty of similar misconduct and had neither taken responsibility for such misconduct that involved his "verbal abuse of one student and corporal punishment of a student confined to a wheelchair" nor was he deterred by that earlier disciplinary action from continuing his pattern of inappropriate behavior.

The record in the current appeal indicated that the hearing officer found that Vagianos, a teacher of special-needs students, made denigrating comments about a students' limitations in the presence of other teachers, including referring to such students as "waste products," made inappropriate comments to a student with autism, and made threatening comments to another teacher.

Under the circumstances, the Appellate Division said that its sense of fairness was not shocked by imposing the penalty of termination in this disciplinary action, explaining that Vagianos' insensitivity to and disrespect for his students "compromised his ability to function as a teacher."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

________________



A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - The text of this publication focuses on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition, and as an e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html

________________

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Does the public have a right of access to a hearing concerning the removal of a member of a school board for official misconduct?


Does the public have a right of access to a hearing concerning the removal of a member of a school board for official misconduct?
2017 NY Slip Op 04624, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The Board of Education [School Board] sought to remove one of its members [Member] from her position on the School Board pursuant to Education Law §1709(18).

Subdivision 18 of §1709 sets out the relevant procedures to be followed in the event a school board seeks to "remove any member ... for official misconduct" and requires that a "written copy of all charges made of such misconduct shall be served upon him [or her] at least ten days before the time appointed for a hearing of the same; and he [or she] shall be allowed a full and fair opportunity to refute such charges before removal."

Member challenged the School Board's procedure in holding the hearing concerning her removal from the board, contending that the School Board had violated her First Amendment right of access when it closed the first three days of the Member's removal hearing to general public. Supreme Court denied her motion for summary judgment and Member appealed.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the Supreme Court's ruling and, addressing the School Board's action barring the public from "the first three days" of the hearing, said:

1. "The First Amendment, made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the government from 'abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances';

2. "[A] trial courtroom ... is a public place where the people generally — and representatives of the media — have a right to be present, and where their presence historically has been thought to enhance the integrity and the quality of what takes place;

3. "The United States Supreme Court has applied a two-part test to determine whether there was a right of access under the First Amendment [see Press-Enterprise Co. v Superior Ct. of Cal., County of Riverside, 478 US 1, 8-10], and the [New York State] Court of Appeals has used that test to determine whether there is a right of access to a professional disciplinary hearing;

4. "The test requires a court to consider 'whether the place and process have historically been open to the press and general public and whether public access plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question'; and

5. "Once it has been determined that there is such a right of access, then the proceeding 'cannot be closed unless specific, on the record findings are made demonstrating that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.'"

The Appellate Division found that Member failed to submit evidence establishing that, as a matter of law, removal hearings conducted pursuant to Education Law §1709(18) have historically been open to the public and that the public has played a significant positive role in such proceedings.

Accordingly, the court concluded that Supreme Court "properly denied [Member's] motion on the ground that [Member] failed to meet her burden of establishing as a matter of law that there is a First Amendment right of access to an Education Law §1709(18) removal proceeding."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2017/2017_04624.htm

_________________

The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public officers and employees in New York State set out as an e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html
_________________



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A collective bargaining agreement may expand an employer's obligation to provide information to an employee organization not specifically provided for by law


A collective bargaining agreement may expand an employer's obligation to provide information to an employee organization not specifically provided for by law
City of New York v New York State Nurses Assn., 2017 NY Slip Op 04492, Court of Appeals

New York State Nurses Association (Union) filed an improper practice petition with the Board of Collective Bargaining of the City of New York (the Board), alleging that it had a right to certain information pursuant to New York City's Collective Bargaining Law (NYCCBL) §12-306(c)(4), in connection with disciplinary proceedings brought against two nurses employed by the City's Human Resources Administration (HRA).

HRA refused to provide the information the Union sought in connection with its representing the two nurses in the disciplinary action, including the "relevant policies and the HRA Code of Conduct, information on time-keeping, patient treatment records for the relevant dates, witness statements, and a written statement detailing how the nurses violated the HRA Code of Conduct." HRA also refused to permit the Union to question "the witnesses who gave statements and the nurses' supervisors."

The Board, with two members dissenting, ruled that it was an improper practice for the City to refuse to comply with certain of the information requests, finding that §12-306(c)(4) extends to information "relevant to and reasonably necessary to the administration of the parties' agreements, such as processing grievances." The Board, however, found that the Union was not entitled to witness statements or a written explanation regarding the violation or the opportunity to question the identified witnesses or supervisors, concluding that §12-306(c)(4) is limited to information "normally maintained in the regular course of business."

The City filed an Article 78 petition challenging the Board's determination.

Supreme Court granted the City's petition and annulled the Board's determination, concluding that the Board improperly extended the Union's right to obtain information for grievances pursuant to contract administration to disciplinary proceedings, noting that "the agreement does not explicitly require the City to provide information in disciplinary proceedings."

The Appellate Division unanimously reversed, holding that "the Board's decision, which was entitled to 'substantial deference,' had a rational basis" but granted the City leave to appeal on a certified question of whether its order was properly made.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division's ruling, Judge Garcia dissenting, explaining:

1. NYCCBL provides that it is improper practice for a public employer "to refuse to bargain collectively in good faith on matters within the scope of collective bargaining with certified or designated representatives of its public employees" and requires both employers and unions "to furnish to the other party, upon request, data normally maintained in the regular course of business, reasonably available and necessary for full and proper discussion, understanding and negotiation of subjects within the scope of collective bargaining."

2. The Board held that NYCCBL §12-306(c)(4) extended to information "relevant to and reasonably necessary for the administration of the parties' agreements, such as processing grievances, and/or for collective negotiations on mandatory subjects of bargaining."

3. The Appellate Division noted, "... the City and HRA do not dispute the Board's precedent holding that the duty to furnish information already applied to 'contract administration' and 'grievances' (including potential grievances)."

4. Union had bargained for and obtained the right to obtain such information in the context of a disciplinary proceedings and not just "contract" grievances by defining "grievance" to include disciplinary action in the relevant collective bargaining agreement.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Expulsion of a public employee in a collective bargaining unit from membership in an employee organization recognized or certified for the purposes of the Taylor Law


Expulsion of a public employee in a collective bargaining unit from membership in an employee organization recognized or certified for the purposes of the Taylor Law
Montero v Police Assn. of the City of Yonkers, Inc., 2017 NY Slip Op 02040, Appellate Division, Second Department

Raymond Montero asked the Appellate Division to review a determination by Supreme Court that sustained the Police Association of the City of Yonkers, Inc., also known as Yonkers Police Benevolent Association [YPBA], expulsion of Montero from its membership. The Appellate Division annulled the lower court ruling, on the law, with costs, and granted Montero's petition.

YPBA had notified Montero of charges alleging he was guilty of certain misconduct and of a hearing scheduled to consider such charges. Montero chose not to appear at the hearing. Apparently YPBA conducted Monero's hearing in absentia and made a determination to expel him from membership in the organization.

Citing Matter of Kelly v Northport Yacht Club, Inc., 44 AD3d 858, the Appellate Division set out the standard for assuming jurisdiction in the matter as follows: "[W]here the constitution and by-laws of a voluntary association reasonably set forth grounds for expulsion and provide for a hearing upon notice to the member, judicial review of such proceedings is unavailable, unless the reason for expulsion is not a violation of the constitution or by-laws or is so trivial as to suggest that the action of the association was capricious or corrupt, or unless the association failed to administer its own rules fairly."

Here, said the court, YBPA determined that Montero committed conduct that was "prejudicial to the welfare of the Association," in violation of the bylaws, was arbitrary and capricious.

Montero was charged with providing "information" to the author of articles published online, providing that author with an email from the YPBA's president to the members, publishing that email online himself, with comments, and being involved in an altercation with another member. The court noted that "Other than the single identified email, there is no basis in the record on which to determine what, if any, other information was provided to the author of the articles by [Montero], and whether such unidentified information was detrimental to [YPBA]."

Although YPBA characterized the email as "confidential," the Appellate Division opined that there is no reason to conclude that the email, which was sent to all of the YPBA's members, was confidential as the email merely contained a statement indicating that the sharing of the email was "discouraged." Further, said the court, while Montero's was alleged to have disseminated "certain misinformation," during a time when YPBA was negotiating a contract with the City of Yonkers complicated the contract negotiations, YPBA failed to explain how the shared email, or the comments made by Montero, had such an effect or was detrimental to the welfare YPBA.

Quoting from Polin v Kaplan, 257 NY 277, the court observed that "If there be any public policy touching the government of labor unions, and there can be no doubt that there is, it is that traditionally democratic means of improving their union may be freely availed of by members without fear of harm or penalty. And this necessarily includes the right to criticize current union leadership. . . . The price of free expression and of political opposition within a union cannot be the risk of expulsion or other disciplinary action. In the final analysis, a labor union profits, as does any democratic body, more by permitting free expression and free political opposition than it may ever lose from any disunity that it may thus evidence."

Lastly, the court said that there was no rational basis for the conclusion that a brief physical altercation between Montero petitioner and another YPBA member "prejudice[d] the welfare" of organization.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Applying the Doctrine of Abatement in a criminal action


Applying the Doctrine of Abatement in a criminal action
United States v Libous, USCA, 2nd Circuit, Docket #15-3979

Under the Doctrine of Abatement, the government has no right to retain fines imposed pursuant to a criminal conviction that is subsequently vacated.

In this case, the Executrix of the estate of Thomas W. Libous, a former New York State Senator, moved to [1] withdraw his then pending appeal; [2] vacate the underlying judgment of conviction of making false statements to the FBI; and [3] remand the matter to the district court for dismissal of the indictment and a order refunding the fine and special assessment imposed upon Libous' conviction to his estate.

A federal jury had convicted former New York State Senator Thomas W. Libous of making false statements to the FBI in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1001. At sentencing, the district court imposed a two-year term of probation on Libous, whose physicians had determined had less than a year to live, along with a $50,000 fine imposition of the mandatory $100 special assessment.

Although the government consented to the abatement of Libous’ conviction, it opposed the return of the fine and special assessment. Incorrect said the Circuit Court, ruling that the government had no right to retain fines imposed pursuant to a conviction that is subsequently vacated and granted the Executrix's  motion in its entirety.

The court explained that "Under the well-established Doctrine of Abatement, ab initio, when a convicted defendant dies pending an appeal as of right, his [or her] conviction abates, the underlying indictment is dismissed. Further, his or her estate is relieved of any obligation to pay a criminal fine imposed at sentence. In effect, all proceedings in the prosecution from its inception are abated."

To comply with this common law rule, said the court, “[T]he appeal does not just disappear, and the case is not merely dismissed. Instead, everything associated with the case is extinguished, leaving the defendant as if he [or she] had never been indicted or convicted.” In other words, “Under the doctrine of abatement ab initio . . . the defendant stands as if he [or she] never had been indicted or convicted.”

This is so because, in the interests of justice, "a defendant does not stand convicted without resolution of the merits of an appeal and to the extent that the judgment of conviction orders incarceration or other sanctions that are designed to punish the defendant, that purpose can no longer be served.”

As the Supreme Court held in Nelson v. Colorado, 137 S. Ct. 124, “[w]hen a criminal conviction is invalidated by a reviewing court and no retrial will occur,” the state is required under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process guarantee “to refund fees, court costs, and restitution exacted from the defendant upon, and as a consequence of, the conviction.”

Once a defendant’s conviction is “erased, the presumption of [his or her] innocence [is] restored,” and the state “has no interest in withholding from [a defendant] money to which the [s]tate currently has zero claim of right.”

The Supreme Court, however, said "We express no view on how abatement operates, if at all, in the event the defendant commits suicide pending an appeal as of right, suggesting that it may distinguish the impact on the Doctrine in cases of suicide from the impact of the Doctrine in the event of death as the result of natural causes, accident, or events other than suicide while such an appeal is pending.

The Circuit Court then granted the Executrix's motion and vacated Libous' judgment of conviction. It also remanded the matter to the federal district court "for the dismissal of the indictment and the return of the fine and special assessment imposed on Libous pursuant to his now-vacated conviction"

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Determining if an individual is an employee of an employer



Determining if an individual is an employee of an employer
Griffin v. Sirva Inc., USCA, 2nd Circuit, Docket No. 15-1307

The New York Court of Appeals answered a certified question from the Second Circuit, holding that liability under §296(6) and under §296(15) of the New York State Human Rights Law [NYSHRL] is limited to an aggrieved party's employer.

The New York Court of Appeals then answered a second certified question by identifying the four factors to use in determining whether an entity is an aggrieved party's employer. On the basis of New York case law, the court identified the four factors as follows:

1. The selection and engagement of the employee by the entity;
2. The payment of salary or wages by the entity;
3. The power of dismissal of the individual by the entity; and
4. The entity's power of control over the employee's conduct.

In this case, two individuals had filed suit alleging that Sirva, Inc., as Allied's parent, can be held liable under the NYSHRL for employment discrimination on the basis of the individuals' respective criminal convictions.

Based on the answers to the certified questions by the Court of Appeals, the Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/6e81c29b-fc57-4111-80b3-1d3bdb5f48ee/4/doc/15-1307_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/6e81c29b-fc57-4111-80b3-1d3bdb5f48ee/4/hilite/

Monday, June 19, 2017

Claiming the affirmative defense of "privilege"


Claiming the affirmative defense of "privilege"
Casey v State of New York,  2017 NY Slip Op 01922, Appellate Division, Third Department

Office of Court Administration's [OCA] sole contention is that the Court of Claims court should have found that its "detention" of Colleen Casey, a senior court officer, was privileged* on the ground that a designated superior's authority to command Casey through lawful orders carried with it a privilege to keep Casey under the supervisor's supervision and to control her movements when Casey did not immediately comply with the lawful order to surrender her personal firearms.

The Appellate Division, observing that OCA bore the burden of proof to establish any claim of an affirmative defense of privilege, said that "There is nothing in this testimony that supports [OCA's] current claim that [Casey] was so noncompliant that it was reasonably necessary to confine her or restrict her movements to ensure her compliance, or so distraught that close supervision was required to ensure her safety and that of others until the firearms [sought] were secured."

OCA, relying upon Casey's testimony in her Court of Claims action to support its claim of privilege, argued that the testimony that Casey she was upset and uncooperative establishes that it was reasonable under the circumstances for the supervisor and the other officers to confine her and restrict her movements. However, said the Appellate Division, as it "previously noted, it was [OCA's] burden, not [Casey's], to prove the claim of privilege."

Having made no claim at trial that the officers' actions were based in any way upon Casey's alleged insubordination or required by any threat to public safety, and having instead presented contradictory evidence to the effect that Casey consented to almost everything she was directed to do, "[OCA] cannot now meet its burden by relying on the same testimony that it sought to discredit at trial."

Addressing OCA's contention that the supervisor "was privileged to confine [Casey] restrict her movements," under the governing rules and procedures to ensure Casey's compliance with lawful orders, the Appellate Division observed that "the rules that require court officers to comply with their supervisors' lawful orders and to turn over their firearms when directed to do so are solely directed at the subordinate officer's obligations, and do not directly address the extent of a supervisor's authority to compel compliance."

Further, said the court, "Nothing in any of the provisions relied upon by [OCA] expressly authorizes a supervisor to use confinement or force to compel a subordinate to comply with an order" nor do the rules that require an officer to comply promptly with lawful orders unequivocally forbid all resistance to every order. Rather the rules provide that the officer "shall not obey any order which is inconsistent with the law," must request clarification or confer with a supervisor when in doubt as to whether an order is lawful, and must obey an order that he or she believes to be unlawful only if the supervisor fails to modify the order after being respectfully informed of the subordinate's belief that it is unlawful.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division said that it agreed with the Court of Claims conclusion that OCA did not meet its burden to that the conduct of the officers in confining Casey and restricting her movements was "reasonable under the circumstances and in time and manner," and therefore OCA failed to prove that its supervisor's conduct was privileged.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



* A particular benefit, advantage, or immunity available to a particular entity, person or class of persons.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Plausibility Standard


The Plausibility Standard
Irrera v Humpherys, USCA, Second Circuit, Docket #16-2004

The Plausibility Standard was addressed the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, and essentially attempts to establish the "bright line" between speculative allegations and those of sufficient plausibility to survive a motion to dismiss the action. In Irrera the Second Circuit explained that "... Iqbal instructs [that] courts are to determine whether a complaint contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”

Dr. Joseph Irrera [Plaintiff] filed Title VII against Dr. Douglas Humpherys and the University of Rochester [Defendants] alleging that he had suffered unlawful retaliation as a result of his filing a complaint of sexual harassment. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss.

The Second Circuit applied the Plausibility Standard to Plaintiff's retaliation claim and held that it was plausible that he was denied a teaching position after he declined sexual approaches from the man who was his teacher and the department chair.

Accordingly, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated in the District Court's ruling part and remanded the matter for its further consideration of Plaintiff's retaliation claims.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Including the phrase "notwithstanding any other provision of law" in a bill is typically viewed as a legislature's intent to preempt all potentially conflicting statutes


Including the phrase "notwithstanding any other provision of law" in a bill is typically viewed as a legislature's intent to preempt all potentially conflicting statutes
Lawrence Teachers' Assn., NYSUT, AFT, NEA, AFL-CIO v New York State Pub. Relations Bd., 2017 NY Slip Op 04944, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Lawrence Union Free School District [District)] implemented a universal prekindergarten program pursuant to Education Law §3602-e. Initially program tasks were performed by employees working in a collective bargaining unit exclusively represented by the Lawrence Teachers' Association's [Association] but in 2012 the District unilaterally contracted with an outside eligible agency to staff and operate the program. The Association filed an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board [PERB] contending that the District had violated Civil Service Law §§204[2] and 209-a[1][d] of the Public Employees' Fair Employment Act, commonly referred to as the "Taylor Law," by outsourcing the work without first negotiating the matter in good faith with the Association.

A PERB Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] concluded that the provisions of Education Law §3602-e vitiated the District's duty to negotiate in good faith and dismissed the charge. PERB affirmed the ALJ's ruling and the Association initiated a CPLR Article 78 proceeding challenging PERB's decision. Supreme Court annulled PERB's determination and remitted for further proceedings, holding that nothing in Education Law §3602-e "defeat[ed] the District's bargaining obligations . . . under the Taylor Law." The District appealed.

Although the outsourcing of work performed exclusively by represented employees is a mandatory subject of bargaining under the Taylor Law, rendering a failure to bargain an improper employer practice under Civil Service Law §209-a(1)(d), PERB had concluded that the outsourcing in this instance was not a mandatory subject of bargaining in view of the provisions set out in Education Law §3602-e(5)(d). That provision authorizes a school district "to enter any contractual or other arrangements necessary to implement" a prekindergarten program plan "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law."*

The Appellate Division said that its review of the statutory landscape "nevertheless leads us to agree with PERB's interpretation." The court explained that the main goal in statutory construction is to discern the will of the Legislature and, in this instance, the statute provides for a universal prekindergarten program "designed to effectively serve eligible children directly through the school district or through collaborative efforts between the school district and an eligible agency or agencies." Thus, said the court, a school district is free to avoid collaborative efforts in crafting a prekindergarten program plan as regardless of the precise plan devised, a school district is empowered to "enter any contractual or other arrangements necessary to implement" it "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law."

Significantly, the Appellate Division noted that §3602(5)(d) grants a school district the power to make necessary arrangements "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law," which, said the court, is the "verbal formulation frequently employed for legislative directives intended to preempt any other potentially conflicting statute, wherever found in the [s]tate's laws."

The court held that the addition of that language "signals the intent of the Legislature to override any statutory conflicts to the exercise of the school district's contracting power, including the Taylor Law bar to outsourcing work absent bargaining beforehand."

The Appellate Division opined that "[t]here is no absolute bar to collective bargaining over" the outsourcing of prekindergarten work to an outside agency and an agreement reached after collective bargaining on the subject is enforceable. However, the court observed that the clear language of Education Law §3602-e compels the conclusion that negotiation is not required to begin with and thus PERB was correct when it determined that the absence of negotiation in this instance did not constitute an improper practice under the Taylor Law.

In contrast, the Appellate Division noted that PERB's decision with respect to the Association's allegations concerning an improper practice within the meaning of the Taylor Law does not preclude Association from demanding "impact negotiations" concerning the program in the future.

* The Appellate Division's decision noted that "[a]s PERB itself recognizes, the interplay between the Taylor Law and Education Law §3602-e presents a question of pure 'statutory construction [that] is a function for the courts[, and PERB] is accorded no special deference in [its] interpretation of statutes'."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fair Labor Standards Act not applicable to personnel employed by an "educational establishment"


Fair Labor Standards Act not applicable to personnel employed by an "educational establishment"
Fernandez v Zoni Language Center, USCA, 2nd Circuit, Docket #16-1689-cv

Zhara Fernandez and certain others [Plaintiffs] were employed as English teachers by the Zoni Language Center. Acting on their own behalf and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs alleged that Zoni was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and the New York Labor Law because it failed to pay them the statutory minimum wage for hours worked out of the classroom and the statutory overtime required when Plaintiffs' classroom and out-of-classroom work exceeded 40 hours per week. 

The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Plaintiffs' FLSA claims, holding that Zoni was exempt from the FLSA's mandatory minimum wage and overtime requirements as they were not applicable to teachers working as bona fide professionals. Zoni, said the court, was an "educational establishment" within the meaning of 29 C.F.R. 541.204(b).

Professional employees employed at elementary and secondary schools, institutions of higher education, or other educational institutions are deemed employees excluded from claiming compensation consistent with the mandatory provisions of the FLSA. In addition, for purposes of this exclusion, no distinction is drawn between public and private schools, or between those operated for profit and those that are not for profit.

The professional exclusion applies to employees who have as a primary duty, teaching, tutoring, instructing, or lecturing in the activity of "imparting knowledge and [who] do so in an educational establishment." Accordingly, employers of such personnel are not mandated to pay such employees minimum wages, overtime or similar compensation related rates otherwise required by Federal or New York State law with respect to its non-professional personnel.

Mere speculation and bare legal conclusions without any factual support set out in an Article 78 petition are ineffective in rebutting a defendant's motion to dismiss


Mere speculation and bare legal conclusions without any factual support set out in an Article 78 petition are ineffective in rebutting a defendant's motion to dismiss
England v New York City Dept. of Envtl. Protection, 2017 NY Slip Op 03948, Appellate Division, Second Department

The petitioner [Petitioner] in this Article 78 action had completed and passed a civil service exam for appointment to the position of Watershed Maintainer with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection [Department]. The Petitioner's name was placed  on an eligible list of candidates by the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Petitioner was subsequently considered, but not selected, for three separate vacancies for the position of Watershed Maintainer. Petitioner was then declared ineligible for further certification or appointment from the list established for the Department.

Petitioner then filed an Article 78 petition seeking a review a determination of the Department's decisions declining to select Petitioner for appointment to the position. Supreme Court granted the Department's motion to dismiss the Article 78 petition "for failure to state a cause of action and, in effect, dismissed the proceeding. Petitioner appealed.

Pointing out that although in an Article 78 motion to dismiss "only the petition is considered," the Appellate Division noted that all of allegations set out in the petition "are deemed true, and the petitioner is accorded the benefit of every possible favorable inference."

In contrast, said the court, "bare legal conclusions are not entitled to the benefit of the presumption of truth and are not accorded every favorable inference."

Applying these principles, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court properly granted the Department's motion to dismiss the petition filed by Appellate Division, Second Department because it failed to state a discrimination claim and offered no more than "speculation and bare legal conclusions without any factual support."

Further, said the court, Petitioner's allegations that the Department refused to hire him because of a prior arrest history was unsupported by any factual contentions and constituted "mere legal conclusions, and are insufficient to state a claim."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The anatomy of a discrimination action


The anatomy of a discrimination action
Clarke v Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 2017 NY Slip Op 04421, Appellate Division, Second Department

In processing an employment discrimination claim "A plaintiff alleging discrimination in employment has the initial burden to establish . . . that (1) he or she is a member of a protected class; (2) he or she was qualified to hold the position; (3) he or she was terminated from employment or suffered another adverse employment action; and (4) the discharge or other adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination"

If the individual makes such a prima facie showing, the burden of going forward shifts to the employer "to rebut the presumption of discrimination by clearly setting forth, through the introduction of admissible evidence, legitimate, independent, and nondiscriminatory reasons to support its employment decision."

The burden of going forward then shifts back to the plaintiff "to establish every element of intentional discrimination, and if the employer had advanced a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the challenged actions," to show that the employer's explanation or explanations were pretextual.

In this action seeking to recover damages for alleged employment discrimination Supreme Court, granted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's [MTA] motion for summary judgment dismissing Edmond Clarke's causes of action alleging employment discrimination on the basis of age and sex, and hostile work environment.
The Appellate Division, in response to Clark's appeal challenging the Supreme Court's ruling, affirmed the lower court's determination.

The Appellate Division explained that in this instance MTA was, prima facie, entitled to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the cause of action alleging employment discrimination on the basis of age and sex by offering legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the challenged actions and demonstrating the absence of material issues of fact as to whether their explanations were pretextual.

A hostile work environment exists where the workplace is "permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment." However, said the court, "Various factors, such as frequency and severity of the discrimination, whether the allegedly discriminatory actions were threatening or humiliating or a "mere offensive utterance," and whether the alleged actions "unreasonably interfere[ ] with an employee's work" are to be considered in determining whether a hostile work environment exists."

Further, noted the Appellate Division, "The allegedly abusive conduct must not only have altered the conditions of employment of the employee, who subjectively viewed the actions as abusive, but the actions must have created an "objectively hostile or abusive environment—one that a reasonable person would find to be so."

MTA, said the court, "established [its] prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the cause of action alleging the existence of a hostile work environment by demonstrating that the conduct and remarks about which Clark complained were not sufficiently severe or pervasive as to permeate the workplace and alter the conditions of his employment at MTA.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Public policy prohibits an employer from bargaining away its right to remove those employees satisfying the plain and clear statutory requisites for termination


Public policy prohibits an employer from bargaining away its right to remove those employees satisfying the plain and clear statutory requisites for termination
Enlarged City Sch. Dist. of Middletown N.Y. v Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc., 2017 NY Slip Op 02421, Appellate Division, Second Department

Thomas Turco, a member of the Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc. [Union], sustained an on-duty injury to his left shoulder. After Turco was out of work for more than one year on Workers' Compensation leave, the district terminated his employment pursuant to Civil Service Law §71. Turco filed a grievance, alleging that such termination violated the CBA. After Turco's grievance was denied, the Union filed a demand for arbitration. Ultimately the Appellate Division granted the district's motion for a temporary stay of the arbitration proceedings.

Conceding the general policy favoring the resolution of disputes by arbitration, the Appellate Division held that some matters, because of competing considerations of public policy, cannot be heard by an arbitrator, explaining "If there is some statute, decisional law or public policy that prohibits arbitration of the subject matter of dispute, . . . the claim is not arbitrable'."

In this instance the district contended that arbitration of the subject matter of the dispute was prohibited by public policy, and in effect, decisional law. The Appellate Division agreed citing Matter of Economico v Village of Pelham (50 NY2d 120, overruled on other grounds Matter of Prue v Hunt, 78 NY2d 364). In Economico the Court of Appeals held that "public policy prohibits an employer from bargaining away its right to remove those employees satisfying the plain and clear statutory requisites for termination."

The district terminated Turco's employment pursuant to Civil Service Law §71 which provides that a public employer may terminate an employee who is absent due to an occupational disability for a cumulative period of one year if the employee remains physically or mentally unable to return to work.*

The Appellate Division noted that Civil Service Law §71 establish "the point at which injured civil servants may be replaced," as it "strike a balance between the recognized substantial State interest in an efficient civil service and the interest of the civil servant in continued employment in the event of a disability." The same is true, said the court, with respect to the termination of an individual absent on §72 leave for “ordinary disability” -- a disability unrelated to work -- pursuant to §73 of the Civil Service Law.**

Thus, concluded the court, the abrogation of the authority granted to a public employer by the statute to terminate the employee absent on §71 leave is implicated in Turco’s situation. As an arbitrator would not be able to fashion a remedy that would not violate public policy in this matter, the Appellate Division ruled that “a preemptive stay of the instant matter is not improper” and Supreme Court should have granted the school district’s petition to permanently stay arbitration.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


* N.B. Where an employee has been separated from the service by reason of a disability resulting from an assault sustained in the course of his or her employment, he or she shall be entitled to a leave of absence for at least two years, unless his or her disability is of such a nature as to permanently incapacitate him or her for the performance of the duties of his or her position.

** Although the phrase used in the decision is "be discharged from his position," such termination is not a pejorative dismissal as both §71 and §73, in pertinent part, specifically provide that an individual terminated from a §71 or a §72 leave, as the case may be, “may, within one year after the termination of such disability, make application to the civil service department or municipal commission having jurisdiction over the position last held by such employee for a medical examination to be conducted by a medical officer selected for that purpose by such department or commission.”

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