From time to time a public employee who has been dismissed from his or her position and who is not entitled to a pre-termination hearing as a matter of law or pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement demands a "name-clearing hearing." The instant case involves such a situation.
The Petitioner was terminated from his position with the
[ New York City School District School District] following allegations he was involved in incidents of "fiscal improprieties, gross mismanagement and outright theft." After a "confidential draft" report concerning the matter by the "Auditor General" was given to, and reported by, a newspaper, Petitioner demanded a "name-clearing hearing."
On its face, this satisfied the two basic requirements courts consider in determining if a name-clearing hearing is required:
(1) allegations that if untrue, tend to defame an individual; and
(2) publication or dissemination of such information by the employer to the public.
Finding that in the Petitioner's case a name-clearing hearing was warranted, a New York State Supreme Court judge summarized the rationale underlying a public officer's or public employee's right to a name-clearing hearing as follows:
"A government employee is deprived of a liberty interest where his or her employment has been terminated based on allegations which place, at stake, his name, reputation, honor and integrity."
The Court ruled that Petitioner was entitled to a name-clearing hearing at which he could be represented by an attorney if he wished and was to be "given an opportunity to examine all reports, face his accusers and, if possible, refute the charges."
The decision also notes that an employee is not required to establish the falsity of the charges in order to be entitled to a name-clearing hearing because that is the function of the hearing itself. The
School District had contended that in order to be entitled to a name-clearing hearing, the individual had to first demonstrate that the charges alleged by the employer were untrue.
Courts, however, have ruled that even though an individual is successful in "clearing" his name, that, standing alone, does not automatically result in the Petitioner's reinstatement to his former position.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: