Employees “demoted” to a lower grade position as a result of their exercise of their “displacement rights” in a layoff situation are not entitled to a “pre-demotion” hearing

Employees “demoted” to a lower grade position as a result of their exercise of their “displacement   rights” in a layoff situation are not entitled to a “pre-demotion” hearing
Yackel v City of Rochester, 2012 NY Slip Op 09253, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The Rochester Firefighters Association file an Article 78 petition challenging an administrative order issued by the Fire Chief of the City of Rochester Fire Department that resulted in the "demotion" of a number of Fire Department battalion chiefs to the rank of captain.

These demotions were the “fall-out” resulting from the abolition of battalion chief positions* as part of budget cuts made by the City of Rochester and the decision of the individual battalion chiefs to exercise their "displacement rights" pursuant to Civil Service Law §80.6.

The Appellate Division said that Supreme Court “properly granted [the City’s] motion to dismiss the Association’s petition, rejecting the Association’s argument that the Fire Chief acted in excess of his authority as the appointing authority for City of Rochester Fire Department when he issued the challenged administrative order.

The court explained that although §8B-4 of the City Charter provided that that "members of the Fire Department . . . hold their respective offices during good behavior or until by age or disease they become personally incapacitated to discharge their duties" did not truncate the "undisputed management prerogative of the [City], as an employer, to abolish positions in the competitive class civil service in the interest of economy."**

The Appellate Division also affirmed Supreme Court’s rejection of the Association’s contention that, as a matter of procedural due process, the individual Battalion Chiefs that exercised their “displacement rights” to an appointment is a lower grade position were entitled to a hearing prior to their "demotions" commenting that the Chief’s action was not based upon any question involving the conduct or the competency of the Battalion Chiefs involved but, rather, was based on their seniority and the mandates of Civil Service Law §§80 and 81.
* There must be an actual and lawful abolishment of a position in order to lawfully remove an employee from his or her position pursuant to §§80 or 80-a (1976 Opinions of the Attorney General 7; see, also, O'Reilly v Nedelka, 212 A.D.2d 714).

** CSL §80 controls with respect to the rights of employees in the competitive class in the event of a layoff; §80-a controls with respect to employees in State service in positions in the non-competitive class. See §45 of the Civil Service Law with respect to determining seniority for the purposes of a layoff involving employees continued in public service following a “take-over” of a private institution or enterprise by a government entity.

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