July 26, 2018

Employee's resignation after being found guilty of disciplinary charges forfeits his or her right to demand arbitration



Employee's resignation after being found guilty of disciplinary charges forfeits his or her right to demand arbitration
Matter of the Arbitration between Unit 8251, Local 842, CSEA v City of Troy, 169 AD2d 871

 Under the terms of a Taylor Law agreement, an employee against whom disciplinary charges had been filed was entitled to a three step disciplinary proceeding. The third step was arbitration.

In the Matter of the Arbitration between Unit 8251, Local 842, CSEA v City of Troy, the basic issue was the effect of an employee's pre-arbitration resignation on his or her right to demand arbitration.

The worker was found guilty of four acts of misconduct. The hearing officer recommended that the employee be terminated. A few days later the employee submitted his resignation.* On the same day that the employee submitted the resignation the union filed a demand for arbitration. The City refused to submit the issue to arbitration on the grounds that the individual, having resigned from his position, was no longer an employee and thus was not covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

The Union filed a legal action seeking a court order compelling the City to submit the matter to an arbitrator. The Union alleged that the employee had been coerced into submitting the resignation and thus it was null and void. Accordingly, it argued, the individual, not having lawfully resigned from his position, was still covered by the Taylor Law agreement.

The Appellate Division rejected the Union's claims regarding coercion. The decision notes that a union official and a city official simultaneously spoke to the individual regarding the ramifications of his decision to resign and that "[the individual] persisted in this course of action and signed a formal, written notice of resignation, witnessed by both officials."

Under the circumstances, the Appellate Division found that there was no evidence of coercion and that having resigned from his position, the individual was no longer covered by the Taylor Law agreement.

As to the issue of a resignation being coerced from an employee or obtained under duress, the courts have concluded that where an appointing authority has the right, if not the duty, to take disciplinary action against an individual, "it was not duress to threaten to do what one had the legal right to do" [Rychlick v Coughlin, 63 NY2d 643].

Rychlick, in the presence of a union representative, was told that unless he submitted his resignation formal disciplinary charges would be filed against him. Although allowed to confer with his union representative, he was told that he would not be given additional time to confer with an attorney. He was also then advised that unless he resigned, charges would be filed. Rychlick submitted his resignation.

A few days later Rychlick asked to withdraw the resignation on the grounds that it had be "forced" from him. When his request was denied, Rychlick sued, claiming the resignation had been obtained under duress and thus was void.

Ultimately the Court of Appeals upheld the agency's refusal to allow Rychlick to withdraw the resignation, indicating that the "threat to file formal charges ... if [Rychlick] did not resign does not constitute duress."

* N.B. The Rules of the State Civil Service Commission, which apply to State officers and employees, provide that "every resignation shall be in writing" [4 NYCRR 5.3]. Most local commissions and personnel officers have adopted a similar rule or regulation.

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