October 27, 2017

The findings of fact made by a §75 hearing officer are given collateral estoppel effect in considering a terminated individual's application for unemployment insurance benefits


The findings of fact made by a §75 hearing officer are  given collateral estoppel effect in considering a terminated individual's application for unemployment insurance benefits
Matter of Schaefer (Commissioner of Labor), 2017 NY Slip Op 04335, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Claimant for unemployment insurance benefits had been terminated from her position as a school bus driver after having been served with disciplinary charges alleging  misconduct arising from her alleged [1] mismanagement of students on her bus during an incident, [2] being uncooperative with school district personnel during a field trip and [3] calling a parent of a student and requesting that the student wait for the bus at an unapproved bus stop without permission from the school district.

Following a disciplinary hearing held pursuant to Civil Service Law §75, the Hearing Officer sustained the charges [1] and [3] but dismissed the charge related to being uncooperative during the field trip. The Hearing Officer, considering that Claimant had received prior parental complaints, counseling memos from the school district and performance evaluations that were all critical of her student management skills, recommended that the appointing authority terminate Claimant.

The appointing authority accepted the Hearing Officer's findings and recommendation as to the penalty to be imposed and dismissed Claimant from her position.

Subsequently Claimants application for unemployment insurance benefits was denied by the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board based its finding that Claimant had been terminated from her position with the school district due to "disqualifying misconduct.*

Claimant appealed the Board's determination. The Appellate Division sustained the Board's ruling, explaining that "[A]s claimant had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of misconduct at the disciplinary hearing, the Board properly accorded collateral estoppel effect to the Hearing Officer's factual findings."

In addition, the court noted that the Board made its own its own determination as to whether Claimant's behavior, which included creating a hostile environment for a student on her bus and failing to follow a known policy of the employer, constituted disqualifying misconduct for unemployment insurance purposes.

Under the circumstances, the Appellate Division said it found that the Board's decision was supported by substantial evidence and "will not be disturbed." 

* N.B. As the Appellate Division noted in Matter of Wrzesinski [Roberts], 133 AD2d 884, not every discharge for cause in a disciplinary action is misconduct within the meaning of the Unemployment Insurance Law, which defines such disqualifying misconduct  conduct as “a willful and wanton disregard of the employer's interest.” 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

CAUTION

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. AGAIN, CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.
Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor members of the staff are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to seek such advice from a competent professional.