October 09, 2020

Overcoming the presumption in favor of collective bargaining terms and conditions of employment underlying the Taylor Law

Civil Service Law §71 provides that where an employee has been separated from the service by reason of a disability resulting from occupational injury or disease as defined in the Worker's Compensation Law, "he or she shall be entitled to a leave of absence for at least one year, unless his or her disability is of such a nature as to permanently incapacitate him or her for the performance of the duties of his or her position."

Under color of Civil Service Law §6[1], the Department of Civil Service promulgated implementing regulations for Civil Service Law §71, setting out procedures for notifying an employee of the right to a one-year leave of absence, notifying an employee of an impending termination following the expiration of that one-year period, the employee's right to a hearing and the procedures to be followed in the event an employee so terminated seeks to return to duty after recovering from the disability.* 

The Long Beach Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF, Local 287 [LBPFA] advised the City of Long Beach [City] that it wished to negotiate the procedure for separating members of LBPFA placed on leave pursuant to §71. City declined to negotiate such a procedure and LBPFA filed an improper practice charge against the City with New York State Public Employment Relations Board [PERB]alleging that the City violated Civil Service Law §209-a(1)(d) by refusing to negotiate the matter with the LBPFA.

An administrative law judge [ALJ] determined that the City had violated Civil Service Law §209-a(1)(d) and PERB affirmed the ALJ's determination. The City then commenced a CPLR Article 78 proceeding challenging PERB's determination. PERB moved to dismiss the petition and the Supreme Court granted its motion. The City appealed the Supreme Court's decision.

The Appellate Division, citing Matter of New York City Tr. Auth. v New York State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 19 NY3d 876, observed that "It is well settled that '[t]he Taylor Law requires collective bargaining over all terms and conditions of employment'" and that the Court of Appeals has "'made clear that the presumption ... that all terms and conditions of employment are subject to mandatory bargaining cannot easily be overcome.'"

That said, the court noted that City of Watertown v State of N.Y. Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 95 NY2d 73 teaches that "The presumption in favor of bargaining may be overcome only in special circumstances where the legislative intent to remove the issue from mandatory bargaining is plain and clear, or where a specific statutory directive leaves no room for negotiation."** 

Finding that the demand to negotiate the issue raised by LBPFA fell within the ambit of Watertown, the Appellate Division opined that it need not defer to PERB's interpretation of Civil Service Law §71 because "[that] question is one of pure statutory construction dependent only on accurate apprehension of legislative intent [with] little basis to rely on any special competence of PERB."

Addressing the issue de novo, the Appellate Division declared that "the presumption in favor of collective bargaining [had been] overcome." The court then reversed PERB's order and judgment holding PERB's decision null and void, granted the City petition, and dismissed the improper practice charge filed by the LBPFA against the City "with prejudice". 

* See 4 NYCRR 5.9. 

** The Appellate Division's decision also notes that [1] "a subject that would result in [the public employer's] surrender of nondelegable statutory responsibilities cannot be negotiated," citing Matter of Board of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of N.Y. v New York State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 75 NY2d 660; and [2] "some subjects are excluded from collective bargaining as a matter of policy, even where no statute explicitly says so," citing Matter of City of New York v Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. of the City of N.Y., Inc., 14 NY3d 46. See, also, https://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2010/10/prohibited-subjects-of-arbitration.html

The decision is posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_05504.htm

 

 

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