Employer's payment of employer contributions towards an employee's health insurance premiums discontinued during the employee's disciplinary suspension without pay
Board of Educ. of the Dundee Cent. School Dist. v Coleman, 29 Misc 3d 1204(A)
May an arbitrator require the appointing authority to continue its employer contributions for health insurance premiums during the employees disciplinary suspension without pay? This was one of the issues considered by Supreme Court in Board of Education of the Dundee Central School District v Coleman
Dundee had served Douglas Coleman, a tenured social studies teacher with disciplinary charges pursuant to Education Law §3020-a. Ultimately the Hearing Officer, finding Coleman guilty of some of the charges and dismissing others, suspended Coleman from "from all teaching duties without pay" but directed Dundee to continue paying employer contributions for Coleman's health insurance premiums during the period of his suspension without pay.
Typically an employee participating in an employer's health insurance plan who is removed from the payroll for a period of absence "without pay" is required to pay both the employer's and the employee's contribution for the required health insurance premiums.
Dundee filed a "hybrid application" pursuant to Articles 75 and 78 of the CPLR, seeking a partial vacation of the penalty imposed by the Hearing Officer with respect to, among other things, it continuing to pay its "employer contributions" towards Coleman's premiums for his health insurance during the period of his suspension without pay contending Education Law §3020-a(4)(a) necessarily involves "a suspension of all payments by Dundee for Coleman's benefit."*
In rebuttal, Coleman argued that §3020-a(4)(a) permits a penalty of suspension without pay to include of the suspension of the payment of an employer's contributions for "fringe benefits."
Supreme Court rejected Coleman's theory, stating that "The statutory scheme clearly contemplates suspension of all financial benefits upon a suspension without pay," citing the decision of the Commissioner of Education in the Appeal of the Board of Education of the Carthage Central School District re: Rosintoski, 33 Educ. Dept Rep. 693 [citing Adrian v. Board of Education of the East Ramapo Central School District, 60 AD2d 840].
The court then directed Coleman to reimburse Dundee "for any such costs already advanced on Coleman's behalf" and, in addition, ruled that "Dundee is immediately stayed from making any further contributions during the suspension period."
* Education Law §3020-a(4)(a), in pertinent part, provides "In those cases where a penalty is imposed, such penalty may be a written reprimand, a fine, suspension for a fixed time without pay, or dismissal.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: