April 20, 2021

An educator's previously unblemished employment record deemed insufficient to mitigate imposing a lesser penalty than dismissal from the position after being found guilty of charges of incompetence and misconduct

An educator [Plaintiff] was found guilty of disciplinary charges served upon her by her employer, the New York City Department of Education [Employer] after a hearing. The arbitrator found the Plaintiff guilty of disciplinary charges filed against her alleging incompetence and misconduct and imposed the penalty of dismissal.  

Plaintiff initiated a CPLR Article 75 proceeding challenging her dismissal from her position and sought a court order vacating the arbitration award which sustained disciplinary charges filed against her alleging Plaintiff was guilty of incompetence and misconduct. 

Supreme Court granted the Employer's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Article 75 petition seeking to vacate an arbitration award, which ruling Plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the Supreme Court's decision. The court observed that the arbitrator's "determination sustaining charges of incompetency is amply supported by the evidence." Further, said the court, the evidence also showed that Plaintiff was "unwilling ... to implement suggestions and constructive criticism of her ineffective teaching methods. Likewise, said the court, the portions of the arbitrator's decision addressing various charges of misconduct were "in accord with due process, rationally based and supported by adequate evidence."

As to the penalty imposed, dismissal from her position, the Appellate Division opined that notwithstanding Plaintiff's "previously unblemished record ... her identified pedagogical shortcomings, lack of improvement, and student safety issues inherent in two of the sustained misconduct charges, the penalty of termination does not shock one's sense of fairness", citing Matter of Ferraro v Farina, 156 AD3d 549, leave to appeal denied, 32 NY3d 902.

Click HERE to access the full text of the Appellate Division's decision.

 

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