March 14, 2022

Providing benefits to employees greater than those mandated by law

In the course of collective bargaining pursuant to Article 14 of the Civil Service Law [the Taylor Law] the City of Troy agreed to permit its police officers to receive benefits from outside employment while on various types of sick leave, including leave pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c. The City's discretion in permitting outside employment is conditioned by the terms of the settlement agreement in that "approval shall not be unreasonably withheld." 

Citing Matter of City Troy [Troy Police Benevolent & Protective Assn., Inc.], 191 AD3d at 1207, the Appellate Division observed that "Such a self-imposed restriction on its own discretion does not violate public policy" as the City  retained its discretion in approving outside employment to a police officer while on General Municipal Law §207-c leave but agreed that it would not unreasonably withhold approval.

In addition, the Appellate Division noted that as part of its collective bargaining negotiations, a municipality may "provide benefits to its employees in excess of those provided by General Municipal Law §207-c," citing Matter of City of Plattsburgh [Plattsburgh Police Officers Union AFSCME Local 82], 250 AD2d 327, leave to appeal  denied 93 NY2d 807].

 Thus, said the court, the City "has not demonstrated that it would be unlawful under any statute, precedent or public policy to refer this grievance to arbitration," citing Matter of City of Ithaca [Ithaca Paid Fire Fighters Assn., IAFF, Local 737], 29 AD3d 1129.

In Matter of City of Plattsburgh the relevant collective bargaining agreement provided that disabled police officers were entitled to receive benefits in accordance with §207-a of the General Municipal Law otherwise available to disabled firefighter injured in the line of duty rather than §207-c available to police officers injured in the line of duty. When Plattsburgh refused to provide disabled police officers §207-a benefits, the union demanded that the resulting grievances be submitted to arbitration, Plattsburgh objected to arbitrating the issue and in an effort to obtain a stay of the arbitration, the City contended that the disputed contract provision:

    1. Had been included in the contract by mistake and

    2. The benefits to be provided disabled police officers are limited to those set out in General Municipal Law §207-c.

The Appellate Division held that the alleged mistake at issue, as well as the meaning and impact of the provision modifying the statutory §207-c benefits as set out in the collective bargaining agreement, was for the arbitrator to resolve and denied Plattsburgh’s application to stay arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the union and awarded the injured police officers
§207-a benefits otherwise only available to firefighters injured in the line of duty.

Click HERE to access the Troy decision by the Appellate Division.

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