November 01, 2018

Rejection of employee's application for reinstatement after admitting to conduct reflecting discredit on the department not arbitrary or capricious


Rejection of employee's application for reinstatement after admitting to conduct reflecting discredit on the department not arbitrary or capricious
Hayes v Nigro, 2018 NY Slip Op 07124, Appellate Division, Second Department

New York City Firefighter Sean Hayes charged with violating New York City Fire Department [FDNY] rules and regulations barring the use of prohibited substances.

In lieu of going forward with a disciplinary proceeding, Hayes settled the matter by entering into a stipulation with the FDNY that [1] allowed him to vest his pension in lieu of facing the penalty of termination and [2] set out his admission to conduct reflecting discredit upon the FDNY arising out of his testing positive for methadone during a random drug test while he was working and violations of the oath of office.

Some three years later Hayes applied for reinstatement to his former position with FDNY. His application was rejected by the Commissioner in consideration of his disciplinary record and the untimeliness of the request. Hayes then initiated an Article 78 proceeding seeking a court order annulling the Commissioner's determination and directing his reinstatement to his former position of firefighter.*

The Supreme Court denied the Article 78 petition and Hayes appealed the court's decision.

Sustaining the Supreme Court's decision, the Appellate Division explained that:

1. A request to the Commissioner for the reinstatement of a firefighter must be made within one year from the date of his or her separation from the FDNY and Hayes' request some three years after his resignation was untimely;

2. Reinstatement is not a right and the decision to reinstate a former employee is within the sole discretion of the Commissioner, and who is not required to state a reason for denying the reinstatement; and

3. The Commissioner's determination rejecting the request will be sustained  unless it is shown to be arbitrary or capricious or an abuse of discretion.

In this instance, said the court, Hayes did not seek to be reinstated as a FDNY firefighter until almost three years after he had left the FDNY after admittedly illegal and potentially dangerous conduct. Thus, said the Appellate Division,  agreeing with Supreme Court, "the determination of the Commissioner was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion."

Addressing Hayes' efforts with respect to "discovery," the Appellate Division said that such discovery was "not relevant to the Commissioner's individualized and discretionary assessment of [Hayes'] application" for reinstatement.

* Hayes also sought discovery of the FDNY's records of all applicants for reinstatement for the period from January 2014 to the date of the commencement of his Article 78 proceeding. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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