PEF stands by member to protect his job, right to back pay with interest
By SHERRY HALBROOK
When it comes to enforcing the PS&T contract and state law to ensure PEF members’ rights are respected, one win is not always enough to get the job done.
A recent example of PEF’s commitment to stand by its member through every challenge is the March 25 decision of NYS Supreme Court Acting Justice James Ferreira that the state must pay interest on the retroactive pay back to December 2017, that it owed to a PEF member who was suspended without pay starting in May 2017 while his employer tried to fire him.
PEF defended the member and an arbitrator ruled that a 90-day unpaid suspension was the appropriate penalty. The member was immediately reinstated to his job, but the employer balked at complying with the arbitrator’s order to pay him for the time in excess of 90 days that he had been suspended.
In 2018, PEF sued, asking the state Supreme Court to confirm the arbitrator’s award. After reviewing PEF’s petition and supporting brief, the state Attorney General’s office agreed not to oppose confirmation of the award of back pay. However, the New York State Attorney General’s office (AG’s) office still opposed a decision to award interest on the back pay, claiming that the member failed to petition for interest within 90 days of the arbitrator’s award.
This year, in his letter of decision and order of March 25, Ferreira said, “The court is unpersuaded by (the AG’s) argument and finds that (the PEF member) is entitled to interest on the arbitrator’s award of lost pay and benefits. It is well-settled that ‘In matters concerning grievance arbitration, interest is earned on monetary damages from the date of the arbitrator’s award.’” He cited a precedent that held “an award of interest on lost pay and benefits is appropriate upon a judgement confirming an arbitration award even where the arbitrator does not mention interest, as here.”
As this played out, the member was represented at various times by PEF associate counsels Adam Alvarez and John Kershko.