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December 15, 2018

Laws of 2018 of interest to public employers and public employees in New York State

Laws of 2018 of particular relevance to public employers and public employees in New York State

Perhaps 2018's must significant legislative action was the amendment of Section 209-a.2 of the Civil Service Law by §4 of Part RRR of Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2018. This amendment set out New York State's response to the United States Supreme Court's decision in Janus v American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al, 138 SCt 2448.

In Janus the high court held that states and public-sector unions may no longer require "nonconsenting employees" in a collective bargaining unit to pay an "agency shop" fee in lieu of joining the certified or recognized employee organization representing employees in a negotiating unit for the purposes of collective bargaining.

§209-a.2 of the Civil Service Law now provides that it is not a violation of an employee organization's duty of fair representation if the employee organization limits its services to, and representation of, nonmembers by declining to provide representation to the nonmember in the relevant negotiating unit at any stage of a grievance, arbitration or other contractual process concerning the evaluation or discipline of a public employee where the non-member is permitted to [i] proceed without the employee organization and [ii] be represented by his or her own advocate; during questioning by the employer; or as an advocate to enforce statutory or regulatory rights alleged by the nonmember or in administrative or judicial proceedings where the nonmember is a party.

Other bills signed in to law by the Governor during 2018 include the following:

CHAPTER
Bill No.
Title
CROCI -- Relates to authorizing additional paid leave for certain employees
MURPHY -- Provides that each state agency that maintains a website shall ensure its website provides for online submission of requests for records subject to FOIL
Rozic -- Relates to requiring the president of the civil service commission to prepare a triennial report relating to programs within state agencies that allow for alternative work   schedules or flexible work hours
Lentol -- Relates to tuition waivers for police officer students of CUNY
GOLDEN -- Relates to terms and conditions of employment of certain nonjudicial officers and employees of the unified court system
BONACIC -- Relates to the terms and conditions of certain nonjudiciary officers and employees in the unified court system
Abbate -- Relates to compensation, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment of certain state officers and employees;appropriation; repealer
Lupardo -- Provides for pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing of school bus drivers
McDonald -- Authorizes educational institutions to agree to pay for all or a portion of the salaries and compensation payable to municipal school crossing guards
Abbate -- Relates to residency requirements for members of municipal departments of sanitation
Skartados -- Relates to justices presiding in an off-hours arraignment part
Galef -- Requires immediate notification by law enforcement of the filing of an accusatory instrument alleging a sex offense by an employee
Gunther -- Relates to the cost of insurance to provide firefighters with an enhanced cancer disability benefit insurance program
Rules (Jones) -- Includes persons appointed as Indian police officers within the definition of the term "law enforcement agency" for the purposes of the law enforcement accreditation council
Rules (Abbate) -- Relates to implementing an agreement between the state and an employee organization; appropriation
GOLDEN -- Relates to disciplinary action against persons employed in the labor class
Cymbrowitz (MS) -- Relates to the qualifications of members of the gaming commission
Rules (Epstein) -- Relates to authorized absences by healthcare professionals who volunteer to fight the Ebola virus overseas; extends effectiveness
HANNON -- Enacts the "living donor protection act of 2018"
RULES -- Relates to salary adjustments according to plan and step-ups or increments
MARCHIONE -- Provides for an increase in the rates of compensation for gold star parents
Titus -- Relates to permitted deductions from wages; extends the effectiveness of such provisions
ROBACH -- Relates to warranties of fire vehicles and ambulances
Lifton (MS) -- Directs the president of the civil service commission to study and publish a report evaluating wage disparities among public employers

December 14, 2018

New York State Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Audits


New York StateComptroller DiNapoli Releases Audits

On December 14, 2018 New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli issued the following audits and examinations

Click on text highlighted in color to access the full report


State Education Department (SED): Volunteers of America – Greater New York Inc.: Compliance With the Reimbursable Cost Manual (2017-S-32)
Auditors identified $1.6 million in reported costs that did not comply with requirements for state reimbursement, including $541,775 paid to 38 individuals who did not work in VOA-GNY’s SED preschool programs.


Department of Health (DOH): Medicaid Program: Improper Medicaid Payments for Childhood Vaccines (2017-S-41)

Auditors identified $32.7 million in improper Medicaid payments for costs related to administering Vaccines for Children program vaccines between Jan. 1, 2012 and May 31, 2017. Medicaid payments were made for free vaccines and payments of the fee to administer the vaccines were not always accurate.


Department of Health (DOH): Criminal History Background Checks of Unlicensed Health Care Employees (Follow-Up) (2018-F-13)
An initial audit concluded that DOH generally met its obligations for conducting background checks on unlicensed employees of Nursing Homes, Adult Care Facilities and Home Health Care providers. However, auditors identified 24 applicants whose determination letters were not completed timely and, as a result, the individuals could have been allowed to work for periods ranging from 2 months to as long as 28 months without final clearance. In a follow-up, auditors found DOH has made significant progress addressing the issues identified in the original audit.


Department of Labor (DOL): Examination of Unemployment Insurance Benefit Payments, January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017 (2018-UI-01)
Auditors identified 2,956 overpayments totaling nearly $1.1 million and 902 underpayments totaling more than $98,000.  Based on the overpayments identified, DOL assessed $1,852,169 in penalties to claimants who made false statements or representations to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled.  


New York Power Authority (NYPA): Selected Management and Operations Practices (Follow-Up) (2017-F-17)
A prior audit, issued on August 1, 2016, found that NYPA reported certain information to the public that was incomplete and could lead the public to draw incorrect conclusions about the ReCharge New York (RNY) program. NYPA reported job commitments and included businesses that were awarded a power allocation, but were in pending status because they did not sign a contract. In some cases, these businesses later declined the contracts. In June 2015, this resulted in an overstatement of job commitments reported by 29,795, or 7.7 percent. In a follow-up, auditors found that officials have made progress in addressing the issues identified in our initial report. Of the 12 prior audit recommendations, two were implemented, seven were partially implemented, and three were not implemented.


December 13, 2018

The employer's annual reviewing and approving requests for the assignment an agency vehicle to an employee does not create a past practice


The employer's annual reviewing and approving requests for the assignment an agency vehicle to an employee does not create a past practice
Spence v New York State Dept. of Transp., 2018 NY Slip Op 08594, Appellate Division, Third Department

Certain employees serving with Department of Transportation [DOT] were assigned state-owned vehicles for work and, in some instances, several employees seeking to use the vehicle for commuting as well as for work was authorized.

Wayne Spence, as President of the New York State Public Employees Federation [Petitioner] filed an improper practice charge with Public Employment Relations Board [PERB] alleging that DOT violated the Taylor Law when it unilaterally discontinued providing state-owned vehicles to some of the employees that had submitted a request seeking be assigned a DOT vehicle . After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge found that DOT's action constituted a violation of the Taylor Law.

DOT appealed and PERB reversed the Administrative Law Judge's decision. PERB, concluding that because DOT retained the discretion to annually review whether employees should be assigned a state-owned vehicle, such employees could not have a reasonable expectation that they would always be provided one.

Petitioner next files an Article 78 petition with Supreme Court seeking a court order annulling PERB's determination. Ultimately the matter was transferred to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division found that:

1. The Taylor Law requires all public employers and employee organizations to negotiate in good faith to determine the terms and conditions of employment of employees in the negotiating unit.

2. Where PERB's determination is made after an administrative hearing, such determination must be supported by substantial evidence.

The court found that the record revealed that DOT's assignment of state-owned vehicles to DOT employees was governed by various criteria set out in a manual that had to be met in order for a state-owned vehicle to be assigned. In addition, the manual required the employee seeking to be assigned a state-owned vehicle to submit a "Form EM-30" and justify his or her need for the state-owned vehicle and its use annually.

PERB concluded that "a past practice of assigning state-owned vehicles with commuting privileges did not exist." In this regard, PERB found that the employees had to annually request such vehicle pursuant to a DOT policy and that DOT retained the discretion to approve or deny such request and, therefore, the employees could not reasonably expect to be assigned a vehicle.

The Appellate Division found that PERB's determination was supported by substantial evidence in the record and although the vehicle requests were routinely approved, that fact did not create a past practice nor divest DOT of its right to exercise its discretion in granting or denying the requests or the use of the vehicle for commuting to and from work.

Citing State of New York Dept. of Correctional Servs. v Kinsella, 220 AD2d 19, the court held that "because PERB's determination is supported by substantial evidence, it will not be disturbed notwithstanding the fact that the record contains evidence that would support a contrary result."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Applying the Vehicle and Traffic Law's qualified statutory privilege available to drivers of emergency vehicles involved in an accident


Applying the Vehicle and Traffic Law's qualified statutory privilege available to drivers of emergency vehicles involved in an accident
Chesney v City of Yonkers, 2018 NY Slip Op 08277, Appellate Division, Second Department

Edward Chesney was struck by a City of Yonkers police vehicle as he attempted to cross a street within a crosswalk against a traffic light in Yonkers and sustained personal injuries. Chesney sued the City to recover damages for the injuries he has suffered, advancing the theory injury-causing conduct of the driver of the police vehicle was governed by the "principles of ordinary negligence."

Yonkers moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, contending that the police officer's conduct in the operation of the vehicle was governed by the "reckless disregard standard of care" under the qualified statutory privilege for drivers of emergency vehicles engaged in emergency operations set our in Vehicle and Traffic Law §1104[e].

Supreme Court applied the reckless disregard standard of care, and granted the City's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Chesney appealed.

The Appellate Division explained that the reckless disregard standard of care set out in Vehicle and Traffic Law §1104(e)* "applies when a driver of an authorized emergency vehicle involved in an emergency operation engages in the specific conduct exempted from the rules of the road by §1104(b)" and "Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104(b)(3) permits the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle involved in an emergency operation to "[e]xceed the maximum speed limits so long as he [or she] does not endanger life or property." Any other injury-causing conduct of such a driver, said the court, is governed by the principles of ordinary negligence, citing Kabir v County of Monroe, 16 NY3d 217.

The Appellate Division said that Yonkers, in support of its motion for summary judgment, had submitted evidence, including a surveillance video of the accident and deposition transcripts sufficient to show that, at the time of the accident, the police officer was operating an authorized emergency vehicle and involved in an emergency operation, and that he was operating the vehicle in excess of the maximum speed limit. In addition, said the court, Yonkers "demonstrated that, based upon the speed of the vehicle, the officer was unable to stop his vehicle in time to avoid a collision with the plaintiff."

As the "injury-causing conduct" was operation of the vehicle in excess of the speed limit, the Appellate Division said that Supreme Court properly applied the reckless disregard standard of care. The court noted that Yonkers had submitted evidence demonstrating, prima facie, that "the police officer's vehicle had a green light, that Chesney was in the crosswalk near the middle of the road attempting to cross the street against the light, and the officer attempted to brake in order to avoid contact." In contrast, the Appellate Division noted that Chesney failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the officer acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division sustained Supreme Court's granting of Yonkers' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. 


* (e) This provisions does not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from his or her duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor do these provisions protect the driver from the consequences of his or her reckless disregard for the safety of others.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Administrative Law Judge finds the testimony of the employer's witnesses more credible that the testimony of the accused employee


Administrative Law Judge finds the testimony of the employer's witnesses more credible that the testimony of the accused employee
Human Resources Admin. v. Brown, OATH Index No. 161/19

A case worker was charged with confronting a security officer at the facility where they worked, using profanity and physically restraining the security officer.

It was also alleged that when the security officer’s supervisor arrived on the scene and directed the officer to her post, the case worker continued to restrain the officer, pushed the supervisor, and directed profanity at the supervisor.

Following a two-day trial, OATH Administrative Law Judge Astrid B. Gloade found testimony of the security guard and her supervisor more credible than the case worker’s testimony concerning the event and she sustained the charges.

Judge Gloade recommended that the appointing authority impose a penalty of a thirty-day suspension without pay, with credit for time served during a pre-trial suspension by the employee.


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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.
New York Public Personnel Law. Email: publications@nycap.rr.com