March 18, 2019

An employee serving a probationary period bears the burden of establishing that his or her "dismissal was due to causes unrelated to work performance and/or improperly motivated"


In York v McGuire, 63 NY2d 760, the Court of Appeals set out the basic rule concerning the dismissal of probationary employees as follows: “After completing his or her minimum period of probation* and prior to completing his or her maximum period of probation, a probationary employee can be dismissed without a hearing and without a statement of reasons, as long as there is no proof that the dismissal was done for a constitutionally impermissible purpose, or in violation of statutory or decisional law, or the decision was made in bad faith.”

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services [OCFS] had appointed an individual [Probationer] to his position in December subject to his satisfactory completion of a one-year probationary period.** The following November OCFS terminated Probationer without notice and hearing.

Probationer then brought an action pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking, among other things, a court order annulling OCFS' decision to terminate his employment. OCFS filed its answer to Probationer's petition and Supreme Court ultimately granted OCFS' motion to dismiss Probationer's petition. Probationer appealed the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court's decision, explaining "[a] probationary employee ... has no right to challenge his or her [timely] termination of [his or her probationary] employment absent a showing that the dismissal was done in bad faith or for an improper reason." Further, said the court, the probationary employee bears the burden of establishing that his or her "dismissal was due to causes unrelated to work performance and/or improperly motivated."

Further still, the record before the Appellate Division indicates Probationer violated certain policies of the OCFS facility at which he was serving and failed to document an incident when residents at the facility had engaged in prohibited activity and failed to counsel them after the incident. In addition, noted the court, Probationer was rated  unsatisfactory in four out of five categories in a performance evaluation.

The Appellate Division opined that such evidence of Probationer's unsatisfactory performance together with evidence of minor infractions committed by him, indicate that "his termination was made in good faith" and the fact that Probationer "received some favorable recommendations" does not constitute a showing of improper motivation or bad faith by OCFS in its decision to terminate Probationer's employment with it.

Concluding that Probationer "failed to tender sufficient evidence showing that his termination was due to improper reasons or done in bad faith," the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court correctly dismissed Probationer's petition.

* In contrast, should an appointing authority elect to terminate a probationary employee prior to the individual completing his or her minimum probationary period, the employee must be afforded “notice and hearing” in accordance with the terms of the controlling law or the relevant disciplinary procedure set out in a collective bargaining agreement. As the Court of Appeals held in York v McGuire, supra, if the probationer has not yet completed his or her minimum period probation, he or she is entitled to “notice and hearing” as a condition precedent to termination on the theory that the individual is entitled to a minimum period of service to demonstrate his or her ability to satisfactorily perform the duties of the position.

** Typically an employee's probationary period is established at "not less than X months and not more than Y months. If no minimum probationary period is specified and the appointment is simply made subject to the satisfactory completion of the employee's probationary period the only window of opportunity for termination without initiating disciplinary action occurs at the end of the probationary period. As the Appellate Division characterized Probationer's appointment as being "subject to [satisfactory completion of] a one-year probationary period," presumably his probationary period fell within the ambit of 4 NYCRR 4.5(b)(1) by operation of law.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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