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Altering Employment Rights After Union Approval

August 2000 Legal Update

By: Louis D. Stober, Jr., Esq.

Altering Your Employment Rights: Only After Union Approval

The terms and conditions of your employment may not be altered without the approval of your union. Individual employees do not have the right to agree to modify, change or alter what has been duly negotiate by CSEA without the consent of CSEA. More importantly, the Town of Hempstead does not have the right to enter into an agreement with an individual employee in order to alter the pre-existing terms and conditions of employment.

In a recent action against the Town of Hempstead and brought on behalf of CSEA, my Associate, Stephen G. Walko, Esq., successfully challenged the Town’s unilateral altering of the Sanitation Foreman I’s shift from task basis to 8 hour shifts. The history of this case is as follows. On February 3, 1983, the Town of Hempstead and CSEA entered into an agreement which allowed all individuals holding the title of Sanitation Foreman I to work on a “task” basis. In other words, the Foreman were assigned various routes to supervise and once those routes were completed the Foreman, as well as the crew, were able to leave work.

This 1983 agreement was reaffirmed and amended in 1993 and again in 1995. However, in April 1996 the Town of Hempstead, without prior consent of CSEA, unilaterally altered the work schedule of all Sanitation Foreman I’s to obligate each of them to work a full 8 hour shift, regardless of when the crews finished their routes. One of the Town’s arguments in defending its actions was that in 1993 the Sanitation Foreman I’s individually agreed to work 8 hour shifts. This, however, was not deemed a valid defense by the court.

The Honorable Daniel Martin, Acting Supreme Court Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Nassau County stated: pursuant to Civil Service Law §209-a(1), a public employer is statutorily obligated to negotiate in good faith with the public employers’ duly appointed representative regarding “terms and conditions of employment.” Justice Martin went on to state “[CSEA] has established that it was the past practice of the Foreman I to work on a task based day. Defendant (Town),….unilaterally changed plaintiff’s members’ workday from a task basis to an 8 hour workday. Defendant (Town) has therefore failed to negotiate the change in plaintiff’s members’ (CSEA) workday as required.

While the Sanitation Foreman I’s were able to be put back on a task based work schedule, all of us have gained from this decision. Justice Martin has made it abundantly clear to the Town of Hempstead that it cannot unilaterally alter the terms and conditions of your employment without first negotiating that change with CSEA. This protection is what helps make CSEA strong. It is because of this decision, in part, that you can be assured that the Town cannot unilaterally change your terms and conditions of employment without first obtaining CSEA’s approval.

Dated: August 28, 2000
Mineola, NY