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Monday, September 29, 2014

Only an appeal filed pursuant to §310 of the Education Law by an entity having "standing" will be considered by the Commissioner of Education


Only an appeal filed pursuant to §310 of the Education Law by an entity having "standing" will be considered by the Commissioner of Education
Appeal of United Federation of Teachers, Local 2, and the New York City Department of Education, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision  No. 16,668

United Federation of Teachers, Local 2, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO [Local 2], the exclusive Taylor Law collective bargaining representative for library media specialists (“LMSs”) and assistant library media specialists (“ALMSs”), filed an appeal with Commissioner of Education pursuant to 310 of the Education Law in which it alleged that the New York City Department of Education (“NYCDOE”) failed to comply with the staffing requirements set forth in §91.2 of the Commissioner’s regulations, [8 NYCRR 91.2].

The Commissioner dismissed Local 2’s appeal for a number of procedural reasons, including:

1. Lack of standing to represent an individual or class of individuals: The Commissioner said that Local 2’s appeal must be dismissed to the extent Local 2 attempted to assert claims on behalf of students. The Commissioner explained that “Standing is a jurisdictional prerequisite to maintaining an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310” and while Local 2 may have, under certain circumstances, standing to assert claims on behalf of its members, it lacks standing to assert the rights of others, in this instance “students” in certain schools.

2. Lack of organizational standing. Here, said the Commissioner, Local 2 failed to demonstrate that it met the first requirement of the three-part test for "organizational standing" required to assert claims on behalf of its members.  In order to establish organizational standing, Local 2 was required to demonstrate [1] that one or more of its members has standing to sue, [2] that the interests advanced in the matter “are sufficiently germane to the individual members’ purposes” such that the organization is an appropriate representative of those interests, and [3] that the participation of the individual members is not required to assert the claim.

With respect to the first test, the Commissioner found that Local 2 failed to allege that any of its individual members had, in fact, suffered harm but, rather, alleged only that such members cannot “seek placement” in certain schools.

3. Mootness. The Commissioner noted that Local 2 challenged NYCDOE’s compliance with the Commissioner’s regulation for the 2011-2012 school year. Thus, said the Commissioner, the appeal must also be dismissed as moot as that school year had since ended. In the words of the Commissioner, “[t]he Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest.”*

However, the Commissioner said that although he was “constrained to dismiss the appeal” for procedural reasons, he was troubled by the fact that NYCDOE had admitted only “substantial” compliance with the regulation and asserted that "it is in the midst of developing a waiver process” through which its schools “could request the Commissioner to approve an ‘alternate arrangement,’ pursuant to §91.2.”** Further, said the Commissioner, the record indicates that NYCDOE has failed to staff certain secondary schools with the required number of LMSs or ALMSs or to provide an alternative arrangement approved by the Commissioner. 

The Commissioner then took administrative notice*** that, subsequent to the commencement of the instant appeal, NYCDOE had submitted a request to the State Education Department for a waiver but subsequently withdrew its request with assurances that it would be submitting a comprehensive strategic plan for libraries that would address the need to properly staff schools with LMSs and ALMSs. To date, said the Commissioner, no such comprehensive plan has been submitted.  

In view of this, the Commissioner directed NYCDOE to comply with the requirements of 8 NYCRR §91.2 in the 2014-2015 school year and thereafter.

In addition, the Commissioner directed the State Department of Education’s Office of Curriculum and Instruction to provide guidance and technical assistance to NYCDOE to this end.

* The Commissioner noted that the appeal did not fall within an exception to the “mootness doctrine” as the determination of issues involving the NYCDOE’s compliance with the regulation’s staffing requirements “are necessarily fact-specific and can be addressed in a subsequent appeal that presents a live controversy.”

** 8 NYCRR 91.2

*** See * NYCRR 276.6.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.counsel.nysed.gov/Decisions/volume54/d16668
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Handbooks focusing on New York State and Municipal Public Personnel Law


Handbooks focusing on New York State and Municipal Public Personnel Law

The Discipline Book, - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State set out in a 2100+ page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - a 442-page volume focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition, and as an e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html

The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html

General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/3916.html
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Probationary employee’s refusing to sign an agreement extending his or her probationary period not disqualifying misconduct for the purpose of determining eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits


Probationary employee’s refusing to sign an agreement extending his or her probationary period not disqualifying misconduct for the purpose of determining eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits
Matter of Jackson (Commissioner of Labor), 2014 NY Slip Op 06237, Appellate Division, Third Department

The employer chose not to grant a probationary teacher [Probationer] tenure but did offer to extend Probationer’s probationary term for one year if she executed an agreement requiring her to "waive any rights, claims or causes of action" related to tenure or the extension of her probationary period.*  Despite being aware that she could lose her job if she did not sign the agreement, Probationer refused to do so. The employer then told her that it was not “certifying completion” of her probationary period so her employment was terminated.**

In response to Probationer’s applying for unemployment insurance benefits following her termination, the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ruled that Probationer's refusal to sign the agreement constituted “insubordination that rose to the level of misconduct" so as to disqualify her from receiving benefits.

The Appellate Division disagreed, holding that although “[r]efusing to comply with an employer's reasonable directive to sign a document can constitute insubordination” and thus support a finding of “disqualifying misconduct” for the purposes of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefit, Probationer’s situation did not constitute such misconduct under the circumstances.

The court explained that unlike situations in which an employee is asked, and refuses, to sign a document that was necessary to the operation of the employer's business, in this instance the employer chose not to grant Probationer tenure and, instead, offered her an extension of probation. In contrast to refusing to perform a job duty, here Probationer merely declined to enter into a new contract with the employer under the terms it offered.

The court pointed out that Probationer’s refusal to sign the extension agreement could possibly be classified as her voluntarily leaving employment without good cause while the employer was offering continuing work, which would be a basis for the Board's denying her application for unemployment insurance benefits. However the employer did not contend that Probationer had quit her job but testified that Probationer had been terminated by the employer.

In any event, the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board did not rely on the ground of “voluntarily leaving employment” in denying Probationer’s claim for benefits but rather based its denial on “misconduct” for alleged insubordination in refusing to agree to an extension of her probationary period as offered by the employer. This, said the Appellate Division was “factually incorrect” under the circumstances as the employer's termination letter indicated that Probationer was “based on the operation of law … not based on insubordination.”

Observing that “[r]efusing to renew a contract does not constitute employee insubordination or misconduct, the court explained that even if the employer would have been warranted in firing Probationer for not signing the extension agreement, her refusal to sign would not constitute disqualifying misconduct if she had a legitimate reason to refuse to do so. Finding that Probationer had not engage in any act of insubordination and, therefore, did not commit disqualifying misconduct, the Appellate Division ruled that “the Board's decision cannot stand.”

* The decision stated that Probationer “was concerned that those provisions would cause her to waive her rights to argue that the denial of tenure and proffered extension were retaliation for her pursuing a sexual harassment claim.”

** Education Law §2573 (1) provides that the employer must either [1] grant the teacher tenure, [2] terminate the teacher’s employment or [3] agree to an extension of the teacher’s probationary term once he or she has completed the three year probationary period.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Providing confidential information to a drug dealer


Providing confidential information to a drug dealer
OATH Index No. 556/14; adopted, Bd. Dec. COIB Case No. 2013-258

The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) adopted in full OATH Administrative Law Judge Kara J. Miller’s finding that a former clerical associate [Accused] employed by the Staten Island District Attorney's Office violated the Conflicts of Interest Law by offering confidential information to a drug dealer.

The drug dealer asked Accused if he was under investigation in exchange for providing cocaine to Accused's husband. On another occasion Accused  displayed her District Attorney’s Office identification to detectives in an attempt to prevent her husband's arrest.

The ALJ found that although Accused submitted an answer denying the charges, the record established that Accused was properly served with the notice of hearing and advised of the consequences of a failure to appear at the hearing. Notwithstanding being so advised, Accused failed to appear at a settlement conference and her attorney filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, stating that Accused was not responding to her telephone calls or letters.

After further conversations with Accused, Judge Miller ultimately proceeded to hold the hearing in absentia* when Accused failed to appear for a scheduled hearing. The ALJ found Accused was in default based upon her written and actual notice of the hearing, her demonstrated reluctance to participate, and her failure to appear. The Administrative Law Judge also granted Accused’s attorney’s motion to be relieved as counsel.

The ALJ sustained the charges, setting out the following findings and conclusions:

1. Accused was properly served with charges and notice of the hearing.

2. COIB proved that Accused attempted to use her position for personal advantage by offering to provide confidential information to a drug dealer in exchange for narcotics, in violation of §2604(b)(3) of the City Charter.

3. COIB proved that Accused displayed her employee identification for a non-City purpose in violation of §2604(b)(2) of the City Charter.

4. COIB proved that Accused attempted to use her position for personal advantage in violation of §2604(b)(3) of the City Charter when she identified herself to the police as an employee of the District Attorney’s office in the course of their investigation of her husband for his allegedly participating in a drug transaction.

COIB adopts Judge Miller's recommended penalty of imposing a $10,000 fine on the former associate clerk.

By law, an OATH report and recommendation in an enforcement action brought by the Conflicts of Interest Board is confidential until the Conflict of Interest Board determines that a violation has occurred.

* Mari v Safir, 291 AD2d 298, sets out the general standards applied by the courts in resolving litigation resulting from conducting a disciplinary hearing in absentia. The decision demonstrates that an individual against whom disciplinary charges have been filed cannot avoid the consequences of disciplinary action being taken against him or her by refusing to appear at the disciplinary hearing. The decision also provides an opportunity to explore a number of factors that should be kept in mind when involved in a disciplinary or other administrative action held “in absentia.” [Source: The Discipline Book, http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html ]

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/oath/14_Cases/14-556.pdf
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Monday, September 15, 2014

A municipality may discontinue a retiree’s health insurance benefit in the absence of a contract or provision of law granting the retirees a vested right to such a benefit

A municipality may discontinue a retiree’s health insurance benefit in the absence of a contract or provision of law granting the retirees a vested right to such a benefit
Iasillo v Pilla, 2014 NY Slip Op 06056, Appellate Division, Second Department

Former mayors and former members of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Port Chester [Plaintiff] continued to receive health care benefits payable by the Village pursuant to Board of Trustee resolutions dated June 1, 1988, and November 2, 1994 upon retirement.

On April 21, 2010, the then Board rescinded both the June 1, 1988, and November 2, 1994, resolutions, thereby terminating the post-retirement health care benefits being provided to Plaintiff by the Village.

Plaintiff sued, seeking a court decision declaring that the resolution dated April 21, 2010, “null and void and without legal effect” as to them. In addition, Plaintiff sought a “permanent injunction enjoining the [Village] from terminating or otherwise modifying [Plaintiff’s] post-retirement health care benefits.”

Plaintiff argued that [1] the Village was contractually obligated to provide them with post-retirement health care benefits, and that [2] the Village was estopped from terminating those benefits.

Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint, holding that the Village’s resolution dated April 21, 2010, was neither “null and void” nor “without legal effect.”

The Appellate Division affirmed Supreme Court’s ruling, holding that the Village had established, prima facie, its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that the then sitting Board was entitled to terminate the post-retirement health care benefits afforded by the June 1, 1988, and November 2, 1994, resolutions. Those resolutions, said the Appellate Division, did not establish a vested interest in those post-retirement health care benefits, explaining that "A municipal resolution is, in general, a unilateral action that is temporary in nature and, thus, it does not create any vested contractual rights."

The court also noted that the Village was not barred by the doctrine of equitable estoppel from terminating Plaintiff’s post-retirement health care benefits.

In McDonald PBA v City of Geneva, 92 N.Y.2d 326, the Court of Appeals concluded that "there is no legal impediment to the municipality's unilateral alteration of the past practice" regarding its providing health insurance benefits to its retirees and their dependents where there was neither a Taylor Law agreement nor some other contract or provision of law granting retirees a vested right to such a benefit.

The Court of Appeals has also ruled that health insurance for retirees is not a retirement benefit protected against being diminished or impaired by the State's Constitution [see Lippman v Sewanhaka Central High School District, 66 NY2d 313].

The Iasillo decision is posted on the Internet at:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller


Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller
Click on text highlighted in color  to access the full report

On Friday, September 12, 2014, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that the following audits have been issued by his office:

Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS): Day Care Licensing (2013-S-66)

OCFS’s licensing and inspection activities assure licensed and registered child care facilities are in compliance with applicable laws and are safe for children. Although the office investigates complaints about unlicensed or unregistered child care providers, it does not have proactive measures in place to identify illegal child care providers and otherwise mitigate illegal operations.
An initial audit issued in March 2011 found DoE classified some students as discharged without sufficient documentation under state guidelines to support a discharge classification. By classifying them as discharged, DoE’s reported graduation rate was higher than the actual rate and the reported dropout rate was lower than actual. In a follow-up, auditors found DoE has made significant progress in addressing the issues identified in the initial report and has implemented the report’s three recommendations.

OGS’ implementation of the ReStacking initiative, aimed at decreasing the amount of leased property occupied by State agencies, was successful in achieving - and in fact exceeding – the cost savings expectations established by the SAGE commission and the Division of the Budget. OGS has achieved about $51 million in lease costs savings which, after adjusting for move costs that total about $18 million, resulted in about $33 million in net savings. However, OGS calculated cost savings separately from expenses and only accumulated costs on an agency by agency basis, not at a statewide level.
The Medicaid program, run by DOH, reimburses outpatient services through the use of the Ambulatory Patient Groups (APG) payment methodology, which is based on patient condition and complexity of service. Auditors found Medicaid made $1,083,836 in actual and potential APG claim overpayments. Of this amount, payments of $614,260 were made for the same medical procedure billed multiple times on the same date of service, and $469,576 was paid for rehabilitation services beyond the allowed limits. Medicaid also made questionable APG claim payments totaling $10,195,755 for dental clinic claims that were processed without sufficient scrutiny of the propriety or frequency of the services billed.

Cash advances are issued to state agencies for purposes such as petty cash, travel and other funding needs. Advances are issued from agency appropriations and the cash is transferred from the State Treasury to a local bank account for use by the agency. SED was authorized to have three advance accounts with a total value of $300,000 as of March 31, 2012. Auditors found SED no longer issues checks for travel advances and infrequently issues checks for petty cash expenses. However, SED does not routinely resolve old outstanding items or review any paid checks and consequently has no assurance that potentially improper or fraudulent transactions are detected.
In an initial audit report from January 2010, auditors found that the authority’s efforts were adequate to ensure fuel and food concessionaires pay full rent on time and make required capital improvements. Auditors also found some improvement opportunities and discovered that a fuel concessionaire under reported its fuel deliveries in one month tested, and as a result underpaid its rent for that month. In a follow-up, auditors found six of seven recommendations had been implemented while another was no longer applicable.
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Friday, September 05, 2014

Circumstantial evidence used to establish employee’s misconduct


Circumstantial evidence used to establish employee’s misconduct
OATH Index Nos. 587/14 & 1545/14

A laboratory assistant was charged with committing errors in processing specimens. OATH Administrative Law Judge Astrid B. Gloade found that the hospital met its burden of proving that the laboratory assistant had [1] sent a patient's specimen for testing which was accompanied by the documentation for a different patient and that the laboratory assistant and [2] had entered the wrong code on a requisition form for the testing of a patient’s specimen, which resulted in the wrong test being performed on the specimen, based solely on circumstantial evidence.*

The ALJ noted that although there was no direct evidence that the laboratory assistant was responsible for the errors underlying the charges, “circumstantial evidence supports finding that [the laboratory assistant] made the error." Judge Gloade then explained that “In a disciplinary proceeding, where the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the credible evidence, misconduct may be established solely by circumstantial evidence" [citations omitted]. 

Further, said the ALJ, “[i]n order to establish a fact in issue by circumstantial evidence, the inference sought to be drawn must be based on proven facts. The inference must be reasonably taken from the proven collateral facts.” Although the charging party “need not disprove all other possible explanations or inferences in order to sustain its case, it must show that the inference drawn is the only one that is fair and reasonable.”

Judge Gloade recommended that the laboratory assistant be terminated in view of her prior disciplinary history and because her misconduct endangered the safety of others.

* The ALJ's decision notes that "Circumstantial evidence is defined as ‘evidence of a collateral fact, that is, of a fact other than a fact in issue, from which, either alone or with other collateral facts, the fact in issue may be inferred,’" citing Richardson on Evidence §4-301.
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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Petition dismissed after former employee failed to rebut employer’s prima facie evidence that it did not unlawfully discriminate against him


Petition dismissed after former employee failed to rebut employer’s prima facie evidence that it did not unlawfully discriminate against him 
2014 NY Slip Op 05959, Appellate Division, Second Department

Plaintiff appealed Supreme Court's dismissal of his “second cause of action” that alleged he had suffered unlawful discrimination in employment because of his disability. Plaintiff contended that his former employer’s failed to provide a reasonable accommodation of his disability and its refusal to renew plaintiff’s term appointment as a clinical associate professor was the result of unlawful discrimination.

The Appellate Division sustained Supreme Court’s ruling, explaining that although New York State’s Human Rights Law provides  that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to the known disabilities of an employee, “[t]he modified work schedule accommodation the plaintiff sought involved his schedule at the nonparty Kings County Hospital Center, which, although 'affiliated' with the plaintiff's now former employer, the defendant State University of New York, Downstate College of Medicine (hereafter SUNY), is not a facility owned and operated by SUNY.”

Further, said the court, SUNY established, prima facie, its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law with evidence showing that, while the plaintiff suffered from a disability related to surgery, he never proposed a reasonable accommodation that [SUNY] refused to make.

As to plaintiff’s allegation concerning SUNY’s refusal to renew his term appointment, the Appellate Division said that SUNY had demonstrated, prima facie, that its action “not to renew the plaintiff's term appointment as a clinical associate professor at SUNY was motivated by legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons.”

SUNY’s prima facie rebuttal of plaintiff’s allegations shifted the burden of going forward to plaintiff to show that SUNY’s explanations were merely subterfuge for unlawful discrimination. However, said the Appellate Division, plaintiff [1] “failed to raise a triable issue of fact with evidence that he proposed a reasonable accommodation that [SUNY] refused to make” nor did plaintiff [2] “raise a triable issue of fact with evidence from which one could infer that the reasons not to renew his term appointment as a clinical associate professor at [SUNY] were pretextual.”

Thus, said the court, “Supreme Court correctly granted that branch of [SUNY’s] motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the second cause of action, which alleged employment discrimination based on disability.”
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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

In a disciplinary hearing the employer bears the burden of proving the charges filed against an employee by a preponderance of the credible evidence


In a disciplinary hearing the employer bears the burden of proving the charges filed against an employee by a preponderance of the credible evidence
OATH Index No. 789/14

A New York City correction officer was charged with leaving her residence while on sick leave without permission and without having logged out with the employer's Health Management Division.

The City’s Department of Corrections alleged that an Absence Control Investigator had visited the employee's home during her sick leave, telephoned her five times, knocked on the door of Apartment 2I, the apartment number listed in the Department’s records, twenty times and “slipped a notice” under the door of that apartment.

In rebuttal, the employee provided evidence and testimony that she had never left her apartment and that the Absence Control Investigator had never entered her apartment building that day.

Further, the employee testified that she lived Apartment 2L and also testified that she had provided her employer with the correct information as to her residence, i.e., Apartment 2L. In addition, the ALJ, noted that the record shows the only other apartment on the floor was Apartment 2R.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Kara J. Miller found the employee’s testimony to be more credible than the testimony of the employer’s witness.

Noting that in a disciplinary proceeding, the employer bears the burden of proof by a preponderance of the credible evidence and that a preponderance has been defined as the burden of persuading “the trier of fact to believe that the existence of a fact is more probable than its nonexistence,” Judge Miller recommended that the charge brought against the employee be dismissed.
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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The date of the meeting on which a school board took formal action to appoint an individual is critical to determining “commencement of service” for the purposes of determining seniority in the event of a layoff


The date of the meeting on which a school board took formal action to appoint an individual is critical to determining “commencement of service” for the purposes of determining seniority in the event of a layoff
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #16,657

In this appeal challenging the board of education’s decision concerning determining seniority of educators for the purposes of layoff the Commissioner of Education indicated that “the general principles regarding seniority calculation are well settled.”

When a board of education [board] abolishes a position, it is required by Education Law §§2510(2) and 3013(2) to discontinue the services of the teacher having the least seniority in the system within the tenure of the position abolished.

1. The first criterion for determining seniority is actual full-time service rendered.

2. If such full-time service is equal, the teachers' respective appointment dates are to be used for determining seniority

Teacher A, a certified mathematics teacher, was appointed by the board to a full-time leave replacement position on July 6, 2005, effective September 1, 2005. Teacher B, a certified mathematics teacher was appointed by the board on September 14, 2005, effective September 1, 2005.

Both A and B served as full-time substitutes in the mathematics tenure area from September 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006.  At its May 9, 2006 board meeting, both teachers were terminated from their full-time leave replacement positions.  At the board’s May 9, 2006 meeting the board granted B a probationary appointment in the mathematics tenure area, effective September 1, 2006.  On June 14, 2006, the board granted A a probationary appointment in the mathematics tenure area, effective September 1, 2006.  Following a successful three-year probationary period, which included the year of service as full-time substitutes, on March 12, 2008, both A and B were granted tenure effective September 1, 2008.

Subsequently the board found it necessary to abolish two positions in the mathematics tenure area effective June 30, 2013.  In calculated the seniority credit for teachers A and B, the board determined B to be the more senior of the two and Teacher A was laid off.

Teacher A objected, contending that he was improperly excessed because he had greater seniority in the mathematics tenure area than did Teacher B and that the board violated the law but incorrectly and arbitrarily used the probationary appointment date to determine which of the two teachers should be excessed, Teacher A or Teacher B.

The board, conceding that both A and B had eight years of service within the district when it abolished the position in the mathematics tenure area, argued that A was properly excessed as having less seniority than B in the mathematics tenure area because using the probationary appointment date was a reasonable and rational means to break the tie in actual full-time service rendered.  Thus, said the board, it properly exercised its discretion when it determined B was the more senior teacher based on B’s probationary appointment date, May 9, 2006, as A’s date of appointment as a probationary teacher was June 14, 2006.

Addressing the merits of A’s appeal, the Commissioner said that in determining the order of seniority of teachers within a district "it is clear that the teacher whose appointment occurred first had a longer seniority ... than the teacher who was appointed upon a later resolution ….However, if teachers have equal service, a board of education must evaluate whether the teachers' appointment dates are identical and if they are, then the board may use an objective means to break the tie in determining seniority.”

The District contended that a teacher’s right to seniority credit includes service as a full-time substitute when such service immediately precedes a probationary appointment but that service as a full-time substitute does not accrue unless it is followed by a probationary appointment and “it is the probationary appointment which must be considered when determining seniority for excessing purposes.” The Commissioner rejected this argument.

The board also argued that its use of the probationary appointment date to determine seniority in a case of equal seniority was proper for the board to use as a  reasonable means to break the tie.  Again the Commissioner disagreed, noting that “[i]f teachers have equal service, a board of education must evaluate whether the teachers’ appointment dates are identical and if they are, then the board may use an objective means to break the tie in determining seniority.”*

Citing Matter of Ducey, et al., 65 St Dept Rep 65, an appeal decided in 1943, the Commissioner explained “[t]he date when a teacher commenced her [or his] service in the system is the date she [or he] started her probationary period, if that was the first date that she [or he] became connected with the system.  If she [or he] had been employed by the board as a regular substitute prior to the service as a probationary teacher, the date of the commencement of regular substitute service is the date of commencement of her [or his] seniority.  Teachers employed on a regular substitute basis are ordinarily, and should be, employed pursuant to board action.”

Here, said the Commissioner, both A and B commenced service as regular full-time substitutes on September 1, 2005 and the record shows that A was appointed to the full-time regular substitute position on July 6, 2005, more than two months before B was appointed by board action on September 14, 2005. Accordingly, the Commissioner applied “the long-settled principles of Ducey,” holding that A’s July 6, 2005 appointment to the regular full-time leave replacement position, which occurred pursuant to board action, indicates his commencement of service within the system, it is that initial appointment date from which both the seniority calculation and appointment date determination should have been made.” 

While the board properly calculated the service time of A and B to include their full-time leave replacement positions, the district “erred in selecting the 2006 probationary appointment dates as the dates which established seniority.”

The Commissioner then ordered the board to reinstate A “to the position to which he is entitled in accordance with this decision, and provide him with back pay and benefits and seniority credit from June 30, 2013, less any compensation he may have earned in the interim.”

* See Matter of Kulick, 34 Ed Dept Rep 613, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 13,428.
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The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html
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Handbooks focusing on New York State and Municipal Public Personnel Law:

The Discipline Book, - a concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State. A 1900+ page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 435 page handbook reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 600+ page guide to penalties imposed on public employees in New York State found guilty of selected acts of misconduct. For more information, click on http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html

General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/3916.html

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