Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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.”

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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