July 10, 2018

Placing an employee on involuntary leave pursuant to Civil Service Law §72.5

Placing an employee on involuntary leave pursuant to Civil Service Law §72.5
NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, OATH Index No. 1865/18

Based on statements a customer service representative [Anonymous] was reported to have made to co-workers, the Appointing Authority [Authority] placed Anonymous on involuntary leave pursuant to Civil Service Law §72.5 in consideration of safety concerns about Anonymous' presence at the work place.

Anonymous filed a timely objection to being placed on §72.5  leave, typically refered to as "emergency leave." After a two-day hearing during which Authority presented the testimony of a psychiatrist, who examined Anonymous and concluded he was unfit, as well as the testimony of two of Anonymous’ co-workers and Anonymous' testimony on his own behalf and the testimony of a psychiatrist called by Anonymous a witness, OATH John B. Spooner found that Authority's failed to meet the standard justifying its placing Anonymous on emergency leave.

Judge Spooner said the Authority did not prove that [1] it had probable cause to believe that Anonymous was dangerous or [2] his presence in the workplace would “severely interfere" with its operations, or [3] Anonymous was likely to be violent. Accordingly, said the ALJ, Authority failed to demonstrate that placing Anonymous on an “extraordinary” pre-hearing suspension authorized by §72.5 was necessary.

Judge Spooner recommended that Authority's petition be dismissed and that Anonymous be awarded back pay for the period of pre-trial leave. Authority, however, rejected the ALJ’s recommendation, finding that it had proved that, due to his psychiatric disorders, Anonymous was unfit to work. Authority also found that Anonymous was not entitled to back pay for the period of prior to his hearing as it had a sufficient basis to institute emergency leave.*

The "standard Section 72 procedure" is triggered by the appointing officer's determina­tion that the individual is physically or mentally unable to perform his or her duties and should be placed on leave of absence and CSL Section 72.1 requires completing a number of procedural steps before the individual may actually be placed on Section 72 leave over his or her objections.
 
In contrast, Section 72.5 relied upon by Authority in Anonymous' situation, essentially sets out an exception to the "standard procedure" that allows it to be truncated only in the event the appointing authority determines that there is probable cause to believe that the continuation of the individual on the job poses a danger to persons, property or the agency's operation.

The "standard procedure" followed under Section 72 may be summarized as follows:

1. The appointing authority determines than an employee is unable to perform the duties of his or her position by reason of an ordinary disability.

2. The appointing authority requires such employee to undergo a medical examination to be conducted by a medical officer selected by the civil service department or munici­pal commission having jurisdiction.

3. The appointing authority provides the employee and the civil service department or commission, in writing, the facts that constitute the basis for the judgment that the employee is not fit to perform the duties of his or her position prior to the medical examination.

4. If the medical officer certifies that the employee is not physically or mentally fit to perform the duties of his or her position, the appointing authority notifies the em­ployee of any proposed Section 72 leave and the proposed date on which such leave is to commence.

5. The employee is also advised of his or her right to object to his or her placement on the proposed Section 72 leave of absence and to request a hearing.

6. If the employee requests a hearing, the appointing authority is to give the employee a hearing within 30 days of the receipt of the request. The appointing authority is also required to provide the employee and the employee's personal physician or authorized representative, with copies of all diagnoses, test results, observations and other data supporting the appointing authority's decision.

7. The employee is not to be placed on leave until a final determination is made by the appointing authority after the hearing is held.

As is typical in administrative actions of this type, the appointing authority has the burden of proof and must provide the evidence that the employee is mentally or physically unfit to perform his or her duties.

Following the receipt of the hearing officer's findings and recommendations, the ap­pointing authority may decide to (1) uphold the original proposed notice of leave of absence, (2) withdraw such notice or (3) modify the notice as may be appropriate.

If the final determination is to place the individual on Section 72 leave, the employee is to be advised of his or her right to appeal the determination to the civil service commis­sion having jurisdiction as provided by CSL Section 72.3.

* §75.2, in pertinent part, provides "5. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, if the appointing authority determines that there is probable cause to believe that the continued presence of the employee on the job represents a potential danger to persons or property or would severely interfere with operations, it may place such employee on involuntary leave of absence immediately; provided, however, that the employee shall be entitled to draw all accumulated unused sick leave, vacation, overtime and other time allowances standing to his or her credit...."

The Anonymous decision, including Authority's justification for rejecting the OATH ALJ's recommendation, is posted on the Internet at:

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