January 21, 2023

All About Submitting a Resignation, Withdrawing a Resignation and Disregarding a Resignation

It appears to be simple enough. 4 NYCRR 5.31 provides that except as otherwise provide therein, "every resignation shall be in writing" while §31(2) of the Public Officers Law requires that "[e]very resignation shall be in writing addressed to the officer or body to whom it is made."

4 NYCRR 5.3, in general, applies to employees of the State as the employer in the Classified Service2 and the employees of public authorities, public benefit corporations and other entities for which the New York State Department Civil Service administers the Civil Service Law. In particular, 4 NYCRR 5.3(b) provides, in pertinent part, that “If no effective date is specified in the resignation, it shall take effect upon delivery to or filing in the office of, the appointing authority. If an effective date is specified in a resignation, it shall take effect on such specified date.3 [Emphasis supplied.]

§31(2) of the Public Officers Law is slightly different and provides that Every resignation shall be in writing addressed to the officer or body to whom it is made. If no effective date is specified in such resignation, it shall take effect upon delivery to or filing with the proper officer or body. If an effective date is specified in such resignation, it shall take effect upon the date specified, provided however, that in no event shall the effective date of such resignation be more than thirty days subsequent to the date of its delivery or filing. [Emphasis supplied.]

Newspaper articles concerning a state or municipal officer or employee resigning from his position4 frequently report that the appointing authority "accepted" the individual's resignation. This is not entirely accurate, however. Except where otherwise provided by law,5 rule, regulation or a provision set out in a collective bargaining agreement,6 approval or acceptance of an officer’s or an employee’s resignation is not required for the resignation to take effect.

All that is required for a resignation to become operative is its delivery to the appropriate appointing authority or to the appointing authority’s lawful representative or as otherwise required or permitted by law. In other words, "acceptance of the resignation" by the appointing authority is not required to validate the resignation and it would suffice for the appointing authority to merely “acknowledge the receipt" of the officer’s or the employee's resignation, an action consistent with good personnel practice.

What constitutes delivery of the resignation to the appointing authority? In Grogan v Holland Patent Central School District,7 the Appellate Division said that even though the school board had not met and had no opportunity as a body to consider the resignation, the “[d]elivery of the letter of resignation to the clerk of the board constituted delivery to the board.” Therefore, the resignation could not be withdrawn without the board’s consent.

In contrast, in Atkinson v Kelly8 the decision reports that the then serving appointing authority "authorized" Atkinson's supervisor to resolve a disciplinary issue by obtaining a letter of resignation from Atkinson. In so doing, the supervisor told Atkinson that if he did not resign from his position a formal disciplinary proceeding would be commenced against him. Atkinson tendered his resignation letter immediately after his meeting with his supervisor.9

The following day, however, Atkinson sent a letter to his supervisor rescinding his resignation. When Atkinson was advised that the appointing authority had rejected his effort to rescind his resignation, Atkinson commenced a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking a court order directing the appointing authority to [1] vacate his termination; [2] reinstate him to his former position; and [3] pay him "damages and back pay." Supreme Court granted Atkinson's petition and the appointing authority appealed.

The Appellate Division, conceding that 4 NYCRR 5.3(c) provides that "a resignation may not be withdrawn, cancelled or amended after it is delivered to the appointing authority without the consent of the appointing authority," nevertheless sustained the Supreme Court's decision. The court explained that in this instance the appointing authority was not authorized to designate another individual to receive an employee's written resignation in lieu of the resignation being delivered to him.10

The Appellate Division's decision noted that although the heads of other departments in the jurisdiction were specifically authorized to delegate the power to receive the delivery of an employee's resignation to a designated individual,11 the powers and duties of the instant appointing authority "did not specifically provide for any such delegation [of this authority] to a subordinate."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division opined that Atkinson's supervisor "was without authority to receive delivery of Atkinson resignation letter" on behalf of the Department's appointing authority. As was no indication in the record that Atkinson's letter of resignation was delivered to the appointing authority or filed by, or on behalf of, Atkinson with the appointing authority's office prior to the Atkinson's request to rescind it, the appointing authority's consent to Atkinson withdrawal of his resignation was not required to validated Atkinson's withdrawal of his resignation. In the words of the court, Atkinson was not preclude from "unilaterally rescinding his resignation."

The Atkinson decision confirms that an individual is able to unilaterally void his resignation provided the written notice that he withdrew or rescinded his resignation is received by the appropriate official or body before his resignation was actually "delivered" to the appointing authority. Courts have typically ruled that the receipt of a withdrawal or cancellation of a resignation before the resignation itself is delivered to the appointing authority or a designated representative effectively voids the resignation.12

Absent a timely withdrawal or cancellation of a resignation, 4 NYCRR 5.3(c) controls and the officer or employee cannot withdraw his resignation after it is delivered to the appointing authority without the consent of the appointing authority. Again, as the court ruled in Hazelton v Connelly,13 all that is required for a resignation to become operative is its delivery to the appointing authority prior to the appointing authority's receipt of an employee’s request to withdraw or rescind the resignation. Again, approval or acceptance of the officer's or employee's resignation by the appointing authority is not required as a condition precedent for the resignation to take effect.14

An example of what the judiciary concluded was an ineffective effort to cancelled or amended a resignation after it was delivered to the appointing authority without the consent of the appointing authority is demonstrated in a decision handed down by the Appellate Division.15

A few months after his appointment, a Town Attorney [TA] sent a letter to the Town Supervisor notifying the Supervisor of his intent to resign from the position "as soon as my successor has been identified, and the Town Board is ready to appoint him or her." The Supervisor had TA's letter to delivered to the Town Clerk "who stamped and filed it in the regular course of business."

TA's subsequent attempts to rescind his resignation were unsuccessful and ultimately he commenced a CPLR Article 78 proceeding in which he contended that his resignation was ineffective and that he had been improperly terminated from his position as Town Attorney. Supreme Court granted the Town's motion to dismiss TA's petition, finding that: [1] TA's resignation was effective; and [2] TA never sought the consent of the Town Clerk to withdraw or cancel his resignation in accordance with Public Officers Law §31(4).

Affirming the Supreme Court's ruling, the Appellate Division explained that although TA's written resignation was presented to the Town Supervisor instead of the Town Clerk as required by the relevant provisions of Public Officers Law §31, this constituted substantial compliance with the statute when TA's resignation letter was delivered by the Town Supervisor's legislative aide to the Town Clerk, who then filed it in the regular course of business. Thus, concluded the court, TA's resignation satisfied the requirements of the law.

In addition, the Appellate Division agreed with the Supreme Court's dismissal of the proceeding based on TA's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies in that TA did not asked the Town Clerk to disregard his resignation.

Smith v Kunkel16 is a case involving an effort to have a court consider an employee's attempt to withdraw his written resignation prior to its effective date.

Smith had submitted his resignation, indicating that he had done so for "personal reasons." The resignation was dated August 21 and was to take effect the September 3, next following. On August 29 Smith wrote Kunkel, the agency's Administrative Officer, "seeking to withdraw and rescind" his resignation. Kunkel declined to approve Smith’s request to withdraw his resignation, citing 4 NYCRR5.3(c) of the rules.

Smith sued the agency contending that Kunkel's refusal to permit him to withdraw his resignation was arbitrary and capricious and that 4 NYCRR 5.3(c) was unconstitutional as it deprived him of his public employment without notice and hearing.

Addressing Smith's constitutional challenge to 4 NYCRR 5.3(c), the Appellate Division rejected Smith's argument noting his contention overlooked a crucial fact -- Smith had not been terminated by the appointing authority but rather had voluntarily resigned from his position. The court indicated that the "voluntariness of [Smith's] resignation is not vitiated by the fact that Kunkel rejected his withdrawal request prior to the effective date of his resignation."

The Appellate Division concluded that Smith, having by his own action relinquished his position, did not retain any constitutionally protected property interest in it.

Another issue that is sometimes raised in connection with an attempt to withdraw a resignation is a claim that the employee resigned as the result of coercion in that his resignation had been obtained under duress because he had been threatened that unless he submitted his resignation from his position, disciplinary charges would be filed against him.

However, as the Court of Appeals explained in Rychlick v Coughlin,17 where an appointing authority has the right to take disciplinary action against an officer or employee, "it was not duress to threaten to do what one had the legal right to do."

Further, in the event an officer or an employee has submitted his resignation after being served with disciplinary charges, or in expectation of being served with disciplinary charges, 4 NYRR 5.3(b) authorizes the appointing authority, as a matter of the exercise of discretion, to disregard the individual's resignation and proceed with the disciplinary action.

Where so otherwise entitled, the individual is then to be provided with "administrative due process" whereby he is given notice of the charges and specifications alleged against him. A disciplinary hearing would be then conducted in accordance with law or a disciplinary procedure set out in a collective bargaining agreement negotiated pursuant to Article 14 of the Civil Service Law, typically referred to as the Taylor Law.

Should the individual fail or refuse to participate in the disciplinary hearing, the appointing officer could elect to withdraw the disciplinary charges or, in the alternative, proceed to hold a disciplinary hearing in absentia.

If the appointing authority elects to go forward with a disciplinary action and hold the hearing in absentia, making the necessary record, and the individual is found guilty of one or more of the charges and specifications served on him and the penalty imposed is dismissal from his employment, 4 NYCRR 5.3(b) provides that individual's termination shall be recorded as a dismissal rather than as a resignation.

The decision in Mari v Safir18 sets out the general standards applied by the courts in resolving litigation challenging an appointing officer's electing go forward with  disciplinary hearing to be held in absentia and demonstrates that an individual against whom disciplinary charges have been filed cannot avoid the consequences of disciplinary action being taken against him by refusing to appear at the disciplinary hearing.

Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,007, provides an insight into a variation of an appointing authority's authority to act upon its receipt of a resignation submitted by an employee.

In this appeal to the Commissioner of Education, a probationary teacher challenged a school board’s rejection of his resignation from his position and the board's decision to terminating him from his position, presumably for failure to satisfactorily complete the probationary period.

The teacher asked the Commissioner to direct the school board to either rescind his appointment as a probationary employee or, in the alternative, to accept his previously tendered letter of resignation from his position. The Commissioner said that as a general rule, "... a board of education has the unfettered right to terminate a probationary teacher or administrator’s employment for any reason, unless the employee establishes that he or she was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statutory proscription or decisional law.”

Addressing the merits of the teacher's appeal, the Commissioner said that “[i]n an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief.” Finding that the teacher failed to allege that his termination from his probationary appointment was for an unconstitutional reason or in violation of any statute, the Commissioner ruled that the teacher had “failed to meet his burden” and dismissed his appeal. 

In this instance the school district "technically" elected to ignore Petitioner's resignation rather than refuse to accept it as an appointing authority may not “refuse to accept” a resignation tendered by an officer or an employee and the resignation becomes operative upon its delivery to the appointing authority. Presumably the school district’s records would record the educator’s separation from employment as a “probationary termination” rather than a “resignation” from the position.

In any event, the appointing authority should be mindful of the decision in Matter of Vinluan v Doyle, 60 AD3d 237, where the court held that except under "exceptional circumstances," an employer cannot refuse to permit an individual to resign from his position.

On occasion the terms set out in a written resignation submitted by an individual may prove troublesome as was the case in Plainedge UFSD v Raymond, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 14,644.

Early in the school year a school board member announced that he was resigning from his position effective the June 30 next following. The school board decided to include the “soon to be vacant” board seat on the ballot of its annual school election in order to save the school district the cost of conducting a special election, approximately $7,000. The winning candidate in election then sought to be seated  immediately but was told that the seat would not become vacant until June 30, the designated effective date of the sitting board member's resignation.

The school district's attorney, however, advised the school board that an oral resignation does not satisfy the requirements of Public Officers Law §31(2) and, therefore, the recently elected candidate could not take office because no vacancy then existed as the then sitting member of the school board was still a member of the board because he had not submitted a lawful written resignation from the school board.   

Addressing the newly elected candidate's appeal, the Commissioner of Education agreed and held that an announcement of an intention to resign at a board meeting did not constitute a valid resignation from the board. In support of his ruling, the Commissioner cited an opinion of the Attorney General19 in which the Attorney General opined that a member of a school board, whether elected or appointed, is a public officer and thus his resignation is subject to the mandates set out in §31 of the Public Officers Law.

The Commissioner's decision also noted that Public Officers Law §31(2) provides that "in no event shall the effective date of such resignation be more than thirty days subsequent to the date of its delivery or filing."

Had the resigning board member submitted his written resignation at the same time he orally announced his intention to resign indicating in his written resignation that the effective date of the his resignation was to be June 30 next, his resignation would have taken effect thirty days after his written resignation was submitted,  notwithstanding the fact that its terms clearly set out the fact that he intended that it not take effect until the next June 30. Simply said, the board member's resignation would have been deemed to take effect 30 days after its delivery "by operation of law."

Another aspect of a school board's processing of an educator's resignation that must be considered is that the resignation may subject to the provisions of §1133.1 of the State Education Law.

§1133.1 provides that a school administrator or superintendent "shall not make any agreement to withhold from law enforcement authorities, the superintendent or the commissioner, where appropriate, allegations of child abuse in an educational setting by an employee or volunteer within the meaning Article 23-Bof the Education Law" in return for the resignation or voluntary suspension of the individual from his position. Presumably an appointing authority could apply the rational in the event of an employee's “retirement” from his position under similar circumstances.20

Turning to yet another element flowing from a resignation from public service, sometimes a former officer or employee will seek to be reinstated to his former position following his retirement. With respect to officers and employees in the Classified Service, such reinstatement is controlled by the provisions of 4 NYCRR 5.4.

4 NYCRR 5.4 authorizes the appointing authority of the State as the employer to reinstate a former "permanent employee" to his former position, if vacant, or to any position to which he was eligible for transfer or reassignment, within one year of the date of the individual's resignation.21  Further, "for good cause shown and where the interests of the government would be served," the civil service commission or personnel officer having jurisdiction may authorize the reinstatement of a former officer or employee more than one year after the effective date of the former employee's resignation.

It should be noted, however, in the event a resignation is submitted while an employee of the State as the employer is on leave of absence without pay, such resignation, for the purpose of 4 NYCRR 5.4, is deemed to be effective as of the effective date of the commencement of his absence without pay. In such cases, however, the actual date of resignation for the purposes of 4 NYCRR 5.4 will be determined in consideration of "any time spent in active service in the military or naval forces of the United States or of the State of New York, and any time served in another position in the civil service of the same governmental jurisdiction ...."

Another potential situation to be considered is an employee's "abandoning his position."

Former 4 NYCRR 5.3(d), repealed effective February 27, 1979, provided that a state officer or employee absent for a period of ten or more days without an explanation would be deemed to have resigned from his position.22 In Bernstein v Industrial Commissioner,23 4 NYCRR 5.3(d) was held to violate the employee's right to due process.

Notwithstanding Bernstein, such a provision has been held lawful if the parties had agreed to memorializing such a term or condition of employment in a collective bargaining agreement as a result negotiations within the meaning of Article 14 of the Civil Service Law. Typically the courts will decline to void the provisions of such agreements except in cases involving a violation of a strong public policy.

Turning to another aspect of the State's "table of organization of personnel", it should be remembered that the public service of the State of New York consists of both a "civil service" and a "military service."

Thus far this article has addressed situations involving the resignation of individuals in the civil service of the State. With respect to personnel serving in the State's "Organized Militia"24, §77 of New York's Military Law provides for the resignations of personnel serving in the State's military service as follows:

1. A commissioned officer of the organized militia may tender his resignation at any time to the governor. If the governor shall accept the resignation, the officer shall receive an honorable discharge but if the officer tendering his resignation shall be under arrest or if charges have been preferred against him for the commission of an offense punishable by a court-martial, he may be given a discharge in such form as the governor may direct.

2. Enlistment in the regular army, air force, navy, marine corps or coast guard of the United States shall be deemed a resignation by the person so enlisting of all commissions in the militia held by him.

3. The acceptance of a commission in the organized militia shall be deemed a resignation by the person accepting the same of any other commission held by him in the militia.


1  4 NYCRR, in general, applies to officers and employees in the Classified Service of the State and public authorities, public benefit corporations and other agencies for which the Civil Service Law is administered by the State Department of Civil Service. Municipal Civil Service Commissions and Personnel Officers typically have adopted similar rules and regulation pursuant to §20 of the Civil Service Law.

2 Although not all public employees are public officers, all public officers are public employees.

3 4 NYCRR 1.1, Application of Rules. Many local civil service commissions and personnel officers serving in lieu of a civil service commission have adopted similar rules or regulations pursuant to §20 of the Civil Service Law.

4 §22 of New York State's General Construction Law, in pertinent part, provides that “Whenever words of the masculine or feminine gender appear in any law, rule or regulation, unless the sense of the sentence indicates otherwise, they shall be deemed to refer to both male or female persons.” NYPPL follows this protocol.

5 For example, §2111 of the Education Law provides that an officer of a school district may "resign at a district meeting" or, in the alternative, the officer "shall also be deemed to have resigned if he filed a written resignation with the district superintendent of his district and such superintendent endorses thereon his approval and files the same with the district clerk."

6 Decisions of the of Education, Decision No. 17,688 where a collective bargaining agreement, in pertinent part, provided that teachers who are absent for 20 consecutive school days without notice shall be deemed to have resigned unless they have reasonable cause for failure to notify.

7 262 AD2d 1009, motion for leave to appeal denied, 94 NY2d 756.

8 175 AD3d 1406.

9 It should be noted that payments to an employee to induce him or her to resign rather that being served with charges not included in final average salary calculation [Horowitz v NYS Teachers' Retirement System, 293 AD2d 861].

10 See City of Mount Vernon Charter Article X, §§114-116.

11 See City of Mount Vernon Charter Article X, §§Articles VIII, VIII-s and IX.

12 Grogan v Holland Patent CSD, 262 AD2d 1009.

13  25 NYS2d 74.

14 In contrast, the Appellate Division rejected an educator's motion to rescind a settlement agreement resolving a disciplinary action because the educator had a change of mind, Nobile v Board of Educ. of the City Sch. Dist. of the City of N.Y.,166 AD3 527.

15 Shadur v Town of Pawling, 2020 NY Slip Op 01175.

16 152, AD2d 893, appeal dismissed, 74 N.Y.2d 944.

17  63 NY2d 643.

18 291 AD2d 298, motion for leave to appeal denied, 98 NY2d 613.

19 1971 Opinions of the Attorney General 12.

20  Mari v.Safir, 291 AD2d 298, leave to appeal denied, 98 NY2d 61.

21 In determining this one-year period, credit is given for time spent in active military service and, or, in service with the State or another political subdivision of the State.

22 Formerly Rule 37.4 of the Rules for the Classified Service. See, also, Stutson v O'Connell,276 AD 602.

23 59 AD2d 678.

24 The State's "Organized Militia" consists of the New York National Guard, the New York Air National Guard, the Naval Militia and the New York Guard.



Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
Copyright 2009-2024 - Public Employment Law Press. Email: