Civil Service Claims
If you work for the New York City or New York State government, you have many protections as a Civil Service worker that private sector employees do not have. But your union may not be doing the right thing. You tell us that you have been served with disciplinary charges and specifications, and that you may be fired after years of faithful service. You are going to lose your pension and healthcare, and the union is not even helping you. Civil servants like you are entitled to representation by a lawyer of your choice and to a fair hearing where all of your evidence will be effectively presented, and your rights under Civil Service Law will be protected.
If you are subject to a disciplinary proceeding, the Civil Service Law requires that you be served with specifications and charges which are specific enough for you to prepare a defense. If you are a tenured civil servant, you have a protected property interest in your continued employment, and cannot be subject to discipline except if the government proves incompetency or misconduct after a hearing on the specifications and charges.
If the hearing officer finds you guilty of the charges against you, you are entitled to challenge the determination in State Court in what is called an “Article 78" proceeding. This proceeding must be filed in court within four months of the determination against you. The findings of the hearing officer must be based on “substantial evidence.” This standard is hard to define. It means less than “preponderance of the evidence” (more than 50% right), but there has to be sufficient evidence, in the Court’s opinion, to sustain the determination of the hearing officer. You don’t get a new trial in Court- the governmental agency will have to supply the Court with a hearing transcript and the exhibits, which will be the basis of the review. The Court can also review the severity of the penalty. That is, it could find that you are guilty of the specifications and charges, but that the penalty is too severe.
It is also important to review your union’s collective bargaining agreement, because it may modify some of the procedures in the Civil Service Law. Non-competitive employees, temporary employees and exempt employees - as opposed to permanent, competitive class employees - may not be entitled to a hearing, unless the reasons for the termination are so stigmatizing that a “name clearing” hearing is mandated. Also, certain governmental agencies have their own special rules.
If you are a probationary employee, you are not entitled to a hearing before you are fired, but a Court can review the whether the decision was in bad faith. This is a difficult standard for employees challenging the termination of their employment, but there are instances where an agency has clearly acted in bad faith.
In addition, like any other employee in New York City, governmental or private, you cannot be subject to discrimination in the terms and conditions of your employment, or be discharged for discriminatory reasons. There may also have been discrimination involved in your civil service disciplinary hearing which subjected you to discipline or termination.
With over 25 years of experience in civil service law, and as a former Assistant Corporation Counsel in a labor law division of the Law Department of the City of New York, we will represent you effectively at a disciplinary hearing.
Contact us online or call us at (212) 949-1001 so that we can discuss your questions and issues about your New York City or New York State government Civil Service hearing.