Recent rulings and recommendations by OATH Administrative Law Judges
Summaries published by the NYC Office of Administrative Tribunals and Hearings

Employee alleged to have refused to work overtime
OATH Index No 1748/12

A hospital special officer was charged with insubordination after refusing to work mandatory overtime on 42 occasions. The employee did not appear at the hearing and the matter proceeded by inquest.*

Administrative Law Judge Kara J. Miller found that on each occasion the officer was given a form ordering him to work mandatory overtime and warning him that non-compliance could result in disciplinary action.  Each form was signed and dated by special officer and a supervisor. 

ALJ Miller found that this documentation proved the insubordination.  She recommended that the special officer be suspended without pay for 45 days.

* Courts have held that the appointing authority or its designee may proceed with the disciplinary action even though the employee is not present. Where the individual is to be  tried in absentia, a diligent effort to contact the employee to inform him or her that the disciplinary hearing had been scheduled and would take place even if he or she did appear at the appointed time and place. Notwithstanding the absence of the individual, the burden is on the charging party to present and prove the disciplinary charges filed against the worker.

Supervisor charged with leave violations, failure to supervise subordinates, sleeping on duty and misuse of agency property.
OATH Index No. 760/12 

Following a 7-day hearing, ALJ Kevin F. Casey sustained some of the leave violations, the sleeping on duty charge and the misuse of property charge, but he dismissed the failure to supervise charges. 

Noting that it was undisputed that some of supervior’s absences may have been due to medical conditions that he developed after his service at Ground Zero, and that the most serious disciplinary penalty previously imposed on employee was the loss of 10 vacation days, Judge Casey found termination of employment to be an overly harsh penalty and recommended a 48-day suspension without pay, based on principles of progressive discipline. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at Dep’t of Sanitation v. Harris (in PDF),  

Employees alleged to have ignored directives to stop distributing union literature while not on duty
OATH Index Nos. 1497/12, 1499/12, 1707/12

Three New York City correction officers were charged with a number of allegations of misconduct, chief among them refusing to comply with orders to stop distributing union literature on Rikers Island while not on duty and refusing to obey orders to leave the secured island.

The individuals denied they were ever given such orders and asserted a First Amendment right to distribute union information while off-duty. They also offered videos of some of the incidents into evidence.

ALJ Alessandra F. Zorgniotti sustained the charges that correction officers refused to obey orders to stop distributing their materials and orders to leave the island, as well as charges that one officer filed a false report and another failed to turn over his parking pass promptly.

Other allegations were dismissed.

ALJ Zorgniotti noted that a correctional facility presents special circumstances under the First Amendment, and that the employees had failed to prove that their First Amendment rights outweighed the compelling interest of the Department in maintaining a secure facility. 

Judge Zorgniotti recommended that each officer be suspended for 10 days without pay. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at Dep’t of Correction v. Reuter (in PDF), OATH Index Nos. 1497/12, 1499/12, 1707/12

Motor vehicle operator alleged mentally unfit to perform her dutie
OATH Index No. 1546/12  

Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner found that the individual had a mental disability but that the proof presented at the hearing was insufficient to sustain the allegation that she was presently unfit for her job as a driver.

The ALJ noted that [1] neither of the two incidents proven at trial established that employee was an unfit driver, [2] the individual had recently received favorable evaluations of her driving performance, and[3]  there had been no complaints about the employee since January 2011.

Judge Spooner recommended that the disciplinary charges be dismissed.

The decision is posted on the Internet at  Admin. for Children’s Services v. Anonymous(in PDF),