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August 17, 2018

Claiming exempt volunteer firefighter status for the purposes of Civil Service Law §75.1(b)

Claiming exempt volunteer firefighter status for the purposes of Civil Service Law §75.1(b)
Serviss v Incorporated Vil. of Floral Park, 2018 NY Slip Op 05597, Appellate Division, Second Department

§75.1 of the Civil Service Laws generally bars the termination of a tenured officer or employee in the Competitive Class of Classified Service of the State or a political subdivision of the State "except for incompetency or misconduct shown after a hearing upon stated charges."

The Incorporated Village of Floral Park terminated Joseph Serviss without notice or a hearing. Serviss challenged his termination, contending that although the position from which he had been terminated was in the Labor Class of the Classified Service and employees serving in the Labor Class were generally not subject to the provisions of Civil Service Law §75.1, he was entitled to these protections provided by §75.1 because he served an "volunteer fire fighter with the Rocky Point Fire Department since September 30, 2013," citing  §75.1(b).

§75.1(b), in pertinent part, provides that "a person holding a position by permanent appointment or employment   in  the  classified  service  of  the  state  or  in the several cities,   counties, towns, or villages thereof, or in any other political or civil   division of the state or of a municipality,  or  in  the  public  school   service,  or in any public or special district, or in the service of any  authority, commission or  board,  or  in  any  other  branch  of  public  service,  who  was  honorably  discharged  or  released  under honorable  circumstances from the armed forces of the United States  having  served   therein  as such member in time of war as defined in section eighty-five   of this chapter, or who is an exempt volunteer firefighter as defined in   the general municipal law,  except  when  a  person  described  in  this paragraphholds the position of private secretary, cashier or deputy of  any official or department,...."

In response to Serviss' Article 78 petition challenging the Village's action, the Village  moved pursuant to dismiss Serviss' petition on the basis that it was deficient as a matter of law, contending that "the petitioner failed to allege in his petition that he was an 'exempt' firefighter as defined in General Municipal Law §200." Serviss then asked Supreme Court "for leave to renew his opposition to the Village's motion to dismiss the petition" and in support of that branch of his motion submitted a certificate and supporting documentation in an effort to establish that he was an "exempt" firefighter as defined in General Municipal Law §200.

Supreme Court denied that branch of Serviss' motion, holding that he failed to offer a reasonable justification for failing to submit the certificate in opposition to the Village's motion to dismiss. Serviss appealed from that order.
Addressing the merits of Serviss' appeal, the Appellate Division explained:

1. In general, a motion for leave to renew must be based upon new facts not offered on the prior motion that would change the prior determination.

2. The new or additional facts presented "either must have not been known to the party seeking renewal or may, in the Supreme Court's discretion, be based on facts known to the party seeking renewal at the time of the original motion."

3. A reasonable justification' for the failure to present such facts on the original motion must be presented."

Noting that Supreme Court "lacks discretion to grant renewal where the moving party omits a reasonable justification for failing to present the new facts on the original motion" the Appellate Division explained that "A motion for leave to renew is not a second chance freely given to parties who have not exercised due diligence in making their first factual presentation." It then agreed with the Supreme Court's finding that the Serviss failed to offer a reasonable justification for his failure to present the documents relating to his status as an "exempt" firefighter in opposition to the original motion to dismiss.

However there are two procedural elements that must be met by an individual claiming exempt volunteer firefighter status for the purposes of §75.1(b) that should be noted.

1. The individual claiming exempt volunteer firefighter status has the burden of demonstrating that he or she enjoys such status [see People v Hayes, 135 AD 19]; and

2. Notice of the fact that the individual is an exempt volunteer firefighter must be given to the employer prior to the individual's effective date of termination [see Badman v Falk, 4AD2d 149]. 

Presumably the courts would apply these two procedural elements in cases involving individuals claiming §75.1(b) military service benefits. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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