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July 05, 2017

The actions of an employee prior to his or her promotion may properly form the basis for terminating the individual prior to the completion of his or her probationary period


The actions of an employee prior to his or her promotion may properly form the basis for terminating the individual prior to the completion of his or her probationary period
2017 NY Slip Op 05145, Appellate Division, Third Department

An individual [Probationer]  serving with the  New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision was promoted to a higher grade position subject to his satisfactory completion of a 52-week probationary period. Shortly after Probationer had completed the minimum period of probation he was terminated from his probationary appointment and reinstated to his former, lower grade, position.

Probationer contending that the termination of his probationary period was made in bad faith as the appointing authority "waited to demote him to his former position until just after he completed the eighth week of his probationary period — the minimum probationary service period — to avoid having to establish under Civil Service Law §75 that the demotion was based on incompetence or misconduct," filed an Article 78 petition in Supreme Court seeking reinstatement to the higher grade position with back salary.

Supreme Court dismissed Probationer's petition and he appealed the court's ruling.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court's determination, explaining that "An employee's probationary appointment may be terminated without a hearing for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the termination was not "in bad faith or for an improper or impermissible reason."*

To warrant a hearing after completing his or her minimum period of probation, the employee bears the burden of raising a material issue of fact as to whether the termination was made in bad faith or for an impermissible reason; allegations of a conclusory or speculative nature are insufficient to meet this burden.

Here, said the Appellate Division, Probationer's submissions were insufficient to raise a material issue of fact as to whether his discharge from the higher grade position was made in bad faith or based on an improper or impermissible motive.

The court noted that in answering Probationer's petition, the appointing authority submitted, among other things, the affidavit of the Personnel Director "which established that the decision to terminate [Probationer's] probationary promotion was made in good faith." The affidavit of the Personnel Director cited an investigative report in which it was concluded that the most credible version of certain events that occurred prior to Probationer's promotion "pointed to [Probationer] having observed and/or participated in threatening [a] particular inmate and then denying such observation or participation."

In addition, "as found by Supreme Court," the Appellate Division said that Probationer's allegations of bad faith "were too conclusory and speculative to warrant a hearing on the matter" as there was no evidentiary support that the Director waited to demote him to his former position until just after he completed the minimum probationary period.

* "Probationary employees" typically hold permanent appointment in the position and may enjoy limited tenure rights. For example, courts have ruled that probationers are entitled to notice and hearing if the appointing authority seeks to dismiss the individual during his or her minimum period of probation. In contrast, a probationer may be dismissed without notice and hearing after completing his or her minimum period of probation and prior to the expiration of his or her maximum period of probation.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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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
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