January 06, 2021

Court vacates agency's grievance decision after finding it arbitrary and capricious and not rational under the circumstances presented

The Acting Director of Labor Relations [Director] of the New York State Unified Court System [UCS] denied a grievance filed by certain individuals [Plaintiffs] challenging the placement of the names of certain candidates on the promotion examination No. 55-787 eligible list for appointment to the title of Senior Court Reporter with UCS.

Plaintiffs filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 appealing the Director's decision and seeking a court order directing UCS:

[1] To remove from the eligible list for promotional examination No. 55-787 the names of candidates who were not employed in the Court Reporter title by the date of the examination; and

[2] To remove any candidate from the position of Senior Court Reporter appointed  from the promotional examination eligible list who did not meet the minimum qualifications to compete in the promotion examination.

Citing 22 NYCRR 25.13[k], Supreme Court "determined that the complained-of conduct by the UCS violated its own rules and eligibility requirements." Holding that such action "was arbitrary and capricious," the court granted Plaintiffs' petition. UCS appealed the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Appellate Division's decision notes that UCS had simultaneously administered an open-competitive examination and a promotional examination for the title of Senior Court Reporter, which examinations were substantively identical. Further, both examination announcements stated that the promotion list "will be used to make appointments before appointments are made from the list established from the open-competitive examination."

Separate eligible lists for each examination were established. However the names of 22 individuals who had taken the open-competitive examination appeared on both the competitive list and the promotion list, although none of these 22 individuals met the minimum qualifications to take the promotional examination and none had actually taken the promotional examination.

Also noted in the Appellate Division's decision was the fact that these 22 individuals "had been appointed as entry level Court Reporters after the examination but before the eligibility lists were established," and that a number of these 22 candidates "had scored higher than those who had taken the promotional examination."

Agreeing with the Supreme Court's determination that the UCS's placement of open-competitive candidates for the Senior Court Reporter position on the promotion list was arbitrary and capricious and not rational under the circumstances presented herein, the Appellate Division explained Article V, §6 of the New York State Constitution provides that "[a]ppointments and promotions in the civil service of the state and all of the civil divisions thereof, including cities and villages, shall be made according to merit and fitness to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by examination which, as far as practicable, shall be competitive."

Conceding that a civil service commission exercises wide discretion in determining the fitness of candidates, the Appellate Division observed that the exercise of such discretion is to be sustained unless it has clearly been abused  and a court, in determining a CPLR Article 78 petition, ''may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency responsible for making the determination and, as long as the administrative determination is not irrational or arbitrary and capricious, [the court] may not annul it."

Here, however, the Appellate Division agreed with the Supreme Court's finding that UCS's placement of the names of open-competitive candidates for the Senior Court Reporter position on the promotion list for that title was arbitrary and capricious and not rational under the circumstances presente and opined that UCS's conduct, among other things, "violated its own rules and eligibility requirements set forth in the exam announcements." It then sustained the Supreme Court's decision granting Plaintiffs' petition, with costs.

Click here to access the decision.


January 05, 2021

Employee served with disciplinary charges alleging the use of aggressive language and expletives and creating a disturbance at the workplace

An employee [Defendant] of a New York City agency was alleged to have had a physical encounter with a co-worker involving the use of "aggressive language and expletives" and creating a disturbance that required the New York City Police Department [NYPD] having to be called to the work site.

Responding to the call, NYPD personnel determined that the matter "should be handled in-house," resulting the appointing authority subsequently serving administrative disciplinary charges against the Defendant.

After the required disciplinary hearing, New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings [OATH] Administrative Law Judge Ingrid M. Addison determined that the Defendant was guilty of having created a disturbance in the workplace resulting in wasting City resources in violation of the agency’s Code of Conduct.

The ALJ, finding that there was no mitigating circumstances with respect to the Defendant's misconduct, recommended that the appointing authority suspend the Defendant without pay for thirty days.

Click here to access Judge Addison's decision.


A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances 
A 442-page e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. 
For more information click here:




Plaintiff's annual performance rating appeal rejected due to the lack of evidence of the raters acting in bad faith or with animus

The New York City Department of Education of the City of New York [DOE] denied the educator's [Plaintiff] administrative appeal of a rating of ineffective on his Annual Professional Performance Review. Plaintiff filed a CPLR Article 78 petition appealing DOE's decision. Supreme Court dismissed the proceeding and Plaintiff appealed the Supreme Court's decision.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the Supreme Court's dismissal of Plaintiff's petition, explaining:

1. DOE's overall rating of Plaintiff as ineffective had a rational basis in the record; and

2. Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that DOE's determination was made in bad faith or in violation of a lawful procedure or a substantial right,

The records indicated DOE observed Plaintiff's performance on three separate occasions, which, opined the court, "provided a rational basis for its rating of [Plaintiff] on the Measures of Teacher Practice portion of her overall rating." 

Further, the Appellate Division noted that Plaintiff "did not demonstrate through competent proof that the "ineffective performance" rating resulted from "bad faith or animus" on the part of the raters, and that DOE's rating of Plaintiff had been based on an assessment of her students' growth compared to other similarly situated students according to criteria used by the school.

Click here to access the Appellate Division's decision

January 04, 2021

Paid Family Leave Webinars for Employers and HR Professionals

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board kicks off 2021 with a Paid Family Leave webinar series starting January 5, 2021, for employers and human resources professionals.


As of January 1, 2021, Paid Family Leave is now in the final year of a four-year phased in approach. Over the last four years, benefits have been significantly enhanced to further improve the lives of working New Yorkers and their families, including more time off, more uses for Paid Family Leave, and more financial security.


Each one-hour session will provide an overview of New York State's landmark Paid Family Leave benefit, including important information regarding COVID-19, updates for 2021, and resources to help you share information with your employees.


Paid Family Leave is employee-paid insurance that provides employees with job-protected, paid time off from work to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or assist when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is deployed abroad on active military service.  As of March 2020, Paid Family Leave may also be available in the event an employee, or their minor dependent child, is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.




Sign up to participate in a session on one of the following dates. Each session is free and there will be time at the end for questions. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Click here to access Registration


Appeal to the Commissioner of Education alleges defects in conducting an election of candidates to the school board

In this appeal to the Commissioner of Education* the Petitioner, a disappointed candidate for election to the school board, submitted an appeal to the Commissioner alleging a number of procedural defects in school board's conducting the election including [a] allegations of "improper electioneering;" [b] including the name of a candidate the ballot "ineligible to serve as trustee;" and [c] failing to properly announce or certify the election results."

After initially addressing a procedural issue concerning the nature of a reply to the school district's answer to Plaintiff's petition and explaining "A reply is not meant to buttress allegations in the petition or to belatedly add assertions that should have been in the petition," the Commissioner turned to the merits of the appeal submitted by the Petitioner with respect to issues involving:

1. The Governor's suspension of Education Law §§2002 and 2022 under color of the ongoing state of emergency caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic;

2. §§2018 and 2608 of the Education Law to the extent necessary “to eliminate any minimum threshold of signatures required” for the nominating petition of a candidate seeking election to a board of education;"

3. Voting using absentee ballots and the procedures to be followed related to  declaring a ballot invalid and other any irregularities actually affecting "the outcome of the election or were so pervasive that they vitiated the electoral process;"

4. Recounting ballots in school district elections; and

5. Attacks on the integrity of the tallies and the returns of the inspectors of election, such as a showing of fraud or improper conduct.**

Observing that "It is well settled that mere speculation as to the possible existence of irregularities provides an insufficient basis on which to annul election results," and citing various earlier Decisions of the Commissioner of Education addressing this point, the Commissioner found that Petitioner "failed to carry her burden of proof to annul the election results or compel a recount" and, after explaining the reasons in support of such findings, the Commissioner dismissed the Petitioner's appeal.

In the words of the Commissioner, "Petitioner has failed to meet her burden of proof to establish that any irregularities affected the outcome of the election.  Therefore, there is no basis upon which to order a recount or invalidate the results of the election" and dismissed Petitioner's appeal.

*Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,947.

** To the extent the Commissioner did not specifically address an issue raised by Petitioner in her appeal, the Commissioner said that she found such issue "to be without merit."

 Click here to access the text of the Commissioner's decision



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.
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