5205/A.7624 amends subdivision 2 of Section 75 of the Civil Service Law to require that a hearing officer, who is a member of the American Arbitration Association, preside over disciplinary hearings brought forth against individual civil service employees. The hearing officer must be mutually agreed upon by both parties. If such agreement cannot be reached, the hearing officer will be selected according to the rules of the American Arbitration Association. Should the employee be suspended during the hearing (for no more than thirty days), the suspension must be with pay, except in certain cases. Further, the decision of the hearing officer must be implemented.
The School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) strongly supports S. 5205/A.7624 as a matter of fundamental fairness. As an association whose membership includes individuals with civil service titles in school districts, we are most supportive of a bill that for the first time provides a fair disciplinary process for such employees. Current hearing processes do not provide for either an independent or fair hearing. The person assigned to conduct the hearing is determined by the employer, the findings are only advisory, and further the employee may be suspended without pay. A suspension without pay is an exercise in economic leverage based solely on an accusation. The proposed bill establishes a hearing process that is conducted by an independent and qualified arbitrator acting under the rules of arbitration and if a suspension is invoked, the employee must be paid. For civil service employees in school districts, the proposed hearing process is more consistent with what is currently afforded other employee groups. This bill does not curtail or diminish disciplinary actions, but rather provides equitable due process safeguards.