October 01, 2019

Applying the Principle of “Obey Now, Grieve Later"


Under the “obey now, grieve later” principle, employees are required to follow their supervisor's orders when given, and, if they have an objection, contest the order subsequently through formal grievance procedures.

A New York City public employee was served with disciplinary charges alleging that he had disobeyed a lawful order to report for drug testing and failed to timely provide medical documentation justifying his inability to travel to the clinic for testing.

Here, however, the worker claimed one of the recognized exceptions to the principle, a situation where obeying the order would present an imminent and serious threat to the worker’s health or safety.*

OATH Administrative Law Judge Garcia found that the worker made out an "imminent and serious threat" to the worker’s health or safety defense. The worker presented documentation from a hospital emergency room showing that he had fainted on a subway platform on his way to the clinic and was told by a doctor not to travel for several days.

Judge Garcia recommended that the charges against the employee be dismissed.

Other decisions in which ignoring the principle "work now, grieve later" was a consideration include  Ferreri v. New York State Thruway Authority, 62 N.Y.2d 855 [refusal to obey an order claimed justified as consistent with the advice of union officials], Scazafavo v Erie County Water Authority, 30 AD3d 1034, [refusal to comply with an order to submit to drug testing because the employee did not believe that he was subject to random drug testing] and Tanvikr v NYC Health and Hospital Corporation, 112 AD 3d 436, [employee refused to obey orders to undertake training for a new position after being reassigned].

* Other exceptions include situations in which it is indisputably clear that the order is beyond the power of management.

The OATH decision is posted on the Internet at:

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