Unblemished record does not shield employee from termination– January 15, 2014

Although, an employee’s work history will be taken into consideration when assessing a disciplinary penalty, even a long and unblemished work history doesn’t preclude termination for acts of misconduct.

Recently, the Appellate Division, 3rd Department upheld a Civil Service Law §75 termination of a teacher aid, who despite a specific directive called into work sick on two days to extend her spring break.  In this case, the teacher aid had previously requested the two additional days off, but her request was denied. The district denied her request, in writing, and went on to further state “she could not take [off] the days under any circumstances” and that she “not take sick time either”.

The teacher, despite the denial and warning, sent an email from the Dominican Republic stating she would be taking the two days as “family sick” days. As a result of her decision to take the days, after being warned not to, the District brought her up on disciplinary charges pursuant to CSL §75. She was subsequently terminated.

On appeal, the teacher aid argued that the hearing officer did not take into consideration her positive performance evaluations, lack of prior discipline, her family dependence on her income and health benefits, and the fact that she arranged substitute cover for those two days.

The Court found that there was ample evidence to support the finding that the teacher’s aide absence “was a well-planned event taken in direct contravention of a direct order” and therefore the penalty of termination was not shocking to one’s sense of fairness.

Matter of Castle v. Maine-Endwell Cent. School District, 2013 NY Slip Op 07912 [111 AD 3d 1221], November 27, 2013.