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December 19, 2017

Failing to file a timely cause of action bars applying court ordered salary adjustments retroactively


Failing to file a timely cause of action bars applying court ordered salary adjustments retroactively
Quirk v Lippman, 2017 NY Slip Op 08732, Appellate Division, First Department 

The genesis of this action was the Court of Appeals order in O'Neill v Pfau in 2011.*

In O'Neill a group of Suffolk County court officers challenged an administrative order issued in January 2004 that reclassified various court officers' employment titles, affecting their compensation, and an administrative order issued December 22, 2004, that made an upward salary adjustment to those titles, retroactive to January 2004.

The petitioners argued that the effect of applying the December 2004 order retroactively would be to deprive them of a year of continuous service credit to which they otherwise would be entitled.

On April 6, 2005, the court officers received pay checks reflecting the salary adjustments ordered in December 2004, without continuous service credit.

In this decision the Appellate Division considered the issue of demands for retroactive salary adjustments and "prospective relief.

NYSCOA member on whose behalf this action was initiated also had received their first "retroactive" paycheck 2004. They initiated this Article 78 action in January 2015, at which time the four-month statute of limitations had run "long before they commenced this proceeding."

Addressing the merits of the claim, the Appellate Division said "A cause of action challenging an administrative body's payment of salary or pay adjustments accrues when the individual  receives a check or salary payment reflecting the relevant administrative order.

The Appellate Division held that NYSCOA's time-barred claims may not be revived by recourse to equal protection principles and "no toll that exists 'solely to enable aggrieved parties to sit on their existing rights pending the outcome of an early challenge brought by others.'"

Further, said the court, as NYSCOA in this action brought this proceeding nearly 10 years after the four-month statute of limitations had begun to run, it had no more timely cause of action for "prospective" relief than it had for the retroactive pay adjustment NYSCOA sought.

In the words of the court: "Indeed, there is no legal basis for a distinction between "prospective" and "retroactive" relief here. In failing to challenge the administrative order in a timely fashion, NYSCOA  petitioners waived any right to the benefit of legal review of the December [2004} order, whatever its implications for the future."

*  O'Neill v Pfau (31 Misc 3d 184 [Sup Ct, Suffolk County 2011], affd as modified 101 AD3d 731 [2d Dept 2012], affd 23 NY3d 993.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:           


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