Payment of vacation leave accruals upon separation from employment

Payment of vacation leave accruals upon separation from employment
Bolin v Nassau County Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs.,52 AD3d 704

Although the employee admitted that she "agreed to resign" and plead guilty to attempted grand larceny in the second degree, she subsequently sought payment of her “accrued vacation benefits” and the return of her “personal property” from Nassau County Board of Cooperative Educational Services [BOCES].

BOCES had rejected the request for the payment of accrued vacation benefits in the sum of $31,020.80. Of amount, $16,768.00 representing the cash value of her 40-day vacation leave balance and $14,252.80 represented the cash value of her 34-day "vested bank" vacation leave balance. In a separate cause of action, the individual sought the return of certain items of her personal property that she claimed BOCES had unlawfully refused to return after she retired.

BOCES asked Supreme Court to dismiss the combined petition/complaint, arguing that, as a matter of public policy, their former employee was not entitled to either payment because she pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in the second degree.

The Supreme Court agreed with BOCES and dismissed the petition/complaint, holding that, as a law, BOCES was within its right to reject the request for a lump sum payment representing her unused and "vested bank" vacation leave in view of her guilty plea.

The Appellate Division disagreed, ruling that the guilty plea did not warrant dismissal of BOCES's former employee’s petition/complaint in its entirety because, in this instance, certain provisions of a collective bargaining agreement controlled.

The relevant provision in the collective bargaining agreement, said the court, "gives BOCES the discretion to deny payment for ‘vested bank’ vacation leave if the employee's separation from BOCES was ‘for cause.’”

Under the circumstances the Appellate Division ruled that Bolin’s separation from BOCES was "for cause" and thus she failed to demonstrate that BOCES was required to pay her for the cash value of her 34-day "vested bank" vacation balance as the collective bargaining agreement gave BOCES discretion to deny such payment in the event an employee’s separation was “for cause.”

As to the payment of payment of the cash value of the individual’s 40-day vacation leave balance, she argued that the collective bargaining agreement "confirm[s], accept[s] and acknowledge[s] a past practice, established for a substantial period of time," in which BOCES pays retiring employees for any unused vacation leave.

The Appellate Division said that while the collective bargaining agreement itself was ambiguous in that it does not specifically require BOCES to pay retiring employees the cash value of their accumulated vacation leave balances, the relevant amendment to the collective bargaining agreement relied upon specifically references such a past practice and does not contain a separation "for cause" limitation or exception.

The court concluded that Supreme Court had “improperly dismissed” her claims that (1) BOCES must pay her the cash value of her 40-day vacation leave and (2) that she is the owner of certain personal property that BOCES unlawfully refused to return to her.

NYPPL Comments: 4 NYCRR 30.1 [setting out the relevant portion of the Attendance rules of employees of the State as the employer], provides, in pertinent part, ”No employee who is removed from State service as a result of disciplinary action, or who resigns after charges of incompetency or misconduct have been served, shall be entitled to compensation for vacation credits under the provisions of this Part.” Many local civil service commissions have adopted a similar provision.

The full text of the decision is set out on the Internet at: