Worker in classroom setting suffers injury when student attacks her
In a recent case, a New York court ordered an employer to restore the employment status of an employee alleging that she deserved at least two years of leave since she was the victim of an assault at work.
The petitioner in this case was working for the Orange-Ulster Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in October 2018. She was a paraprofessional in an elementary classroom setting for children with severe developmental disabilities.
The petitioner suffered injuries when a student attacked her. Initially, she was able to go back to work. However, she stopped coming to work at the end of September 2019.
In October 2020, the BOCES notified the petitioner about its intention to terminate her employment under section 71 of the Civil Service Law.
In a letter, the petitioner contested her termination. She alleged that she was entitled to at least two years of leave before the BOCES could terminate her employment under section 71 of the Civil Service Law because she was the victim of an assault at work.
In November 2020, the BOCES issued a determination rejecting this argument. The BOCES informed her that it had terminated her position as of Oct. 30, 2020.
She filed a petition under article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules. She asked the court to annul the determination of the BOCES and to restore her to her employment status as it existed before that determination.
In its response, the BOCES provided evidence and argued that the petitioner was not entitled to two years of leave under section 71 of the Civil Service Law because her injuries did not result from an assault sustained in the course of her employment.
In June 2021, the Supreme Court of Orange County granted the petition and annulled the determination of the BOCES. The Supreme Court directed the BOCES to restore the petitioner to her employment status as it existed before the effective date of the determination and to continue this status.
The BOCES appealed. In the case of Matter of Van Dunk v Orange-Ulster Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs. (the BOCES), the New York Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed the judgment of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court properly granted the petition, annulled the determination of the BOCES, and directed it to restore the petitioner to her employment status as it existed before the effective date of the determination, the appellate division ruled.
The determination of the BOCES to terminate the petitioner's employment was conclusory and was lacking any factual basis, the appellate division added.
The appellate division cited the relevant case law, which stated that the standard of judicial review under article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules was whether the administrative action was arbitrary and capricious, was an abuse of discretion, was in violation of a lawful procedure, or was affected by an error of law.
The case law also stated that administrative action was considered arbitrary if it lacked a sound basis and failed to consider the fact.