The Role of Collective Bargaining Agreements in Section 75 Cases

Section 75 of the New York Civil Service Law provides due process rights to certain groups of public employees. If covered by Section 75, an employee may not be fired or disciplined without receiving advanced notice and a hearing. The employee has the right to challenge an adverse employment decision in arbitration. And if the arbitrator rules in the employee's favor, he or she may seek enforcement of the award in the courts.

Court Upholds Decision to Reinstate Employee Fired After Being One Minute Late

Section 75 protections are subject to modification if the employee belongs to a union that has a separate collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the relevant employer. In other words, if there is any conflict between Section 75 and the CBA, the latter controls. This also means that an arbitrator or judge must look to the language of the CBA to determine an employer or employee's respective rights in a disciplinary matter.

For example, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in upstate New York recently confirmed an arbitration award in favor of a union employee who was fired for being late to work. The employer said the employee violated its strict attendance policy. This policy advanced an employee one “step” for each incident of tardiness. And the employee here was at step seven when the employer attempted to fire her.

The actual firing incident occurred when the employee “was one minute late to work after her vehicle was stuck behind a disabled train at a rail crossing near her employer's facility,” according to court records.

The union sought arbitration under Section 75 and its CBA with the employer. The CBA provided that any termination offense would be cleared from an employee's record if there was not “just cause” supporting the decision. Here, the arbitrator held the firing was not for just cause. The employer's “strict adherence” to its attendance policy was “overly severe,” especially given that on the day of the firing incident, the employee “called in 10 minutes before her shift to say that she might be late due to the delay caused by the disabled train,” and the fact she was one minute late to start her shift created no apparent “difficulties” for the employer.

The employer challenged the arbitrator's decision in the courts. But the Fourth Department said the arbitrator “made a rational interpretation of the just cause provision and the attendance policy.” Furthermore, the arbitrator simply applied the terms of the CBA, under which “the penalty of termination could not be upheld.”

Contact a New York City Section 75 Hearings Lawyer Today

Civil service laws provide essential protections for public workers. Given the potential consequences of an adverse employment decision–including a suspension without pay or termination–it is important for all covered employees to assert their legal rights. The first thing you should do is contact a qualified New York employment attorney who can advise you of your Section 75 rights and advocate for your interests. Call the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C., today if you need immediate assistance.