IDCWLaw Prevails At Appellate Division: Municipal Employer Violated Taylor Law When It Discontinued Pharmacy Co-Pay Benefit

IDCWLaw has a wealth of experience in appellate advocacy, on behalf of its union clients. Partner Liam Castro’s extensive track record includes numerous successful arguments before New York’s Appellate Court, with two notable victories at the state’s highest court. This expertise proved invaluable in March 2024 when the Third Department sided with a coalition of unions in a crucial case brought against  the County of Rockland when it discontinued  pharmacy co-payment benefits for union members.

IDCWLaw, in conjunction with the coalition, pursued this matter vigorously, initially securing a favorable decision from the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which acknowledged the County’s actions violated New York’s Taylor Law, which governs labor-management relations in the public sector. Subsequently, both the Supreme Court and now the Third Department Appellate Division have upheld PERB’s decision and also found the County’s actions were illegal.

IDCWLaw is now focused on securing monetary damages for every affected union member. Given the significance of the case and the widespread impact of the County’s actions, it is anticipated that the damages awarded will be substantial.

Subway-Surface Supervisors Association members overwhelmingly ratify new Contract.

Congratulations to President Michael Carrube and the board and members of the Subway Surface Supervisors Association on the overwhelming ratification of its new collective bargaining agreement with the New York City Transit Authority. 81% of the members voting approved the deal.

The agreement overcame a wide array of obstacles including the Authority’s refusal to bargain during the pandemic and its last minute demand to add additional months to an agreement whose term was set by pattern bargaining.

President Carrube defeated that initiative and secured a contract with 9.5% increases over 48 months, secured improved working conditions, a strengthened grievance procedure, bonuses, longevity improvements, death benefit improvements and improvements in payments for unused sick and vacation time among other significant employer concessions. President Carrube also secured two first of their kind benefits for SSSA members: bereavement leave for the death of a grandchild and lifetime medical coverage for spouses of deceased members and retirees.

President Carrube also made the ratification process more democratic by arranging for members to view the ratification meeting by live stream and to vote remotely.

IDCW partner Howard Wien served as counsel to the SSSA during the negotiations and ratification process.

IDCWLaw Wins Improper Practice Charge For Union Concerning Starting Pay.

Starting pay for newly hired employees has to be negotiated.  This ensures a fair wage, not only for the newly hired employee, but also as it relates to incumbent employees.  Stated another way, it would be unfair for a newly hired employee to make more than an incumbent in the same position, sometimes the result of who someone knows.  The Public Employment Relations Board sustained our client’s charge to enforce a past practice of starting pay for newly hired employees in a certain title.  PERB agreed that an employer may not decide the starting pay at any step for itself, potentially treating some prospective employees markedly different from others as well as incumbents.  IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq. handled the arguments for our client.

IDCWLaw Secures Emergency Injunction Against Nassau County Sheriff’s Department Concerning Staffing.

The health and safety of our union-clients’ members are paramount.  We do not give an inch, and we act very quickly when, the need arises to enforce their health and safety rights.  On March 17, 2023, late at night, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department reduced the officer-to-inmate ratio to less than two-to-one at a local hospital.  Our union client has in place an agreement, not only on the general health and safety of all officers, but also requiring the County to maintain that two-to-one ratio.  Early the next business day we brought by Order to Show Cause a proceeding against Nassau County requesting that the County be enjoined from reducing that ratio to less than two-to-one.  Injunctions are always difficult to obtain, as we have to show, among other things, that the rights of our members will be irreparably harmed without an injunction.  We are happy to report that on the Nassau Supreme Court sided with our arguments and issued an order prohibiting the County from maintaining a lower than required officer-to-inmate ratio.   IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq. handled the arguments for our client.

IDCWLAW Workplace Safety Lawsuit Makes News.

Workplace safety is as critical an issue as any other.  This is particularly true in law enforcement and the jails where workplace violence is most prevalent as officers deal with society’s most dangerous individuals.  Specifically, at the Nassau County Correctional Center, inmate assaults and uses of forces are increasing disproportionately each of the last several years putting correction officers at that facility at increased daily risk of being a victim of assault at their workplace.   Under New York Labor Law § 27-b, all employers, including the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, must implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Program.  In particular, under N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 12, § 800.6 (g)(2)(iii), the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department must issue “a plan for program review and update on at least an annual basis.  Such review and update shall set forth any mitigating steps taken in response to any incidents of workplace violence,  . . ..”  Despite the fact that Nassau correction officers are at increased risk for workplace violence, the Sheriff’s Department had failed to perform this annual review and assessment, and institute a mitigation plan to address the particularized needs for uniformed employees assigned to the Sheriff’s Department.

In August 2022, we informed the Sheriff’s Department of their legal obligation, but they failed to act.  In November 2022, we also informed the State Department of Labor of the Sheriff’s Department’s failure to perform their annual review and assessment on workplace violence.  That is why in December 2022, we filed on Nassau County correction officers’ behalf a lawsuit challenging the Sheriff’s Department’s utter failure to protect its employees.  We at IDCWLAW will continue to fight for employee safety.  IDCWLAW Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq., is handling this case, which is pending in Nassau Supreme Court, and which caught the attention of the news media.  See that report here:

IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq., Convinces PERB to Find Ulster County Violated the Taylor Law By Changing Supervisor’s Shifts.

At IDCWLaw creativity in arguing our cases is a bedrock principle. We took that principle and applied it to what seemingly was a staffing change, which is often a managerial prerogative. The Ulster County Sheriff’s Department supervisors work a different schedule than correction officers. The Department took the position that the scheduling disparity created supervisory overstaffing for one hour and supervisory understaffing for another hour. That is why they decided to change the supervisors’ start and end time of their shifts, to equalize their supervisory staffing levels.

We challenged their decision to change the supervisor’s shift schedules, though it seemingly concerned staffing. We argued there was no evidence of a change in required staffing levels with the State Commission of Correction, but rather, this involved merely a change to the first line supervisors’ shift pattern. We also argued that no contractual provision reserved this kind of change to the Department, without negotiation. PERB agreed, and further held there was a sufficiently long practice of the then-current supervisor schedule such that members reasonably believed it would continue absent negotiations. PERB ordered the shifts revert back to what it was before the change, and that all affected members be compensated for any financial loss.

RITU Foremen Ratify New Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Congratulations are again in order for the Railway Independent Transit Union, to its President Shaam Somwaru, its board and all its members serving as Foremen at the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) railroad.

On October 18, 2022, the Foremen overwhelmingly ratified a new collective bargaining agreement. This was the first CBA since the Foremen elected to forego representation by the American Railway and Airway Supervisors Association (“ARASA”) and, instead, join the RITU.  That occurred on March 4, 2020, a time when it had been eight years since the Foremen’s CBA had expired.

In reaching this agreement RITU was able to preserve and strengthen the Foremen’s health and pension benefits and secure immediate increases in wages of over 30% with full retroactivity.

President Somwaru assumed the RITU Presidency during 2021 upon the retirement of his predecessor.

This is the third successful collective bargaining agreement reached by President Somwaru this year after nearly a decade of deadlocked negotiations for all three RITU bargaining units.

Howard Wien of IDC&W served as counsel to RITU during RITU’s collective bargaining.

IDCWLaw Partner Howard Wien negotiates and secures ratification of new collective bargaining agreement.

Congratulations are again in order for the Railway Independent Transit Union, to its board and all its members serving as Tower Operators at the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) railroad. 

On August 8, 2022, the Tower Operators overwhelmingly ratified a new collective bargaining agreement. This was the first CBA since the Tower Operators elected to forego representation by the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers union (“SMART”) and, instead, join the RITU.  That occurred on July 29, 2020, a time when it had been nine years since the Tower Operators’ CBA had expired. 

In reaching this agreement RITU was able to preserve and strengthen the Tower Operators’ health and pension benefits and secure immediate increases in wages of over 30% with full retroactivity. 

Howard Wien of IDC&W served as counsel to RITU during this collective bargaining.

IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq. Wins Battle to Compel the City of New York to Pay Union Members for Taking Away Vehicle Privileges.

IDCWLaw has extensive experience challenging municipal decisions to take away economic benefits from union members without bargaining.  This month, August 2022, after extensive arguments from Mr. Castro, the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining ordered the City of New York to reimburse all affected employees for their mileage and tolls because the City unilaterally took away from union members their take-home vehicles without first negotiating with the union.  In UFADBA v. City of New York, the union initially challenged the City’s decision to take away the vehicles. And, about one year ago OCB held the City improperly took away those vehicles. However, when it came to the remedy, the City, in negotiations, believed the only individuals who were entitled to any compensation were those who actually had the vehicles, not anyone else who would have received the vehicles but for the City’s decision to take them away. They also argued that benefit ended when the contract expired. Mr. Castro refused to give up on those other employees, and took the matter back to OCB to argue the City was again wrong, this time as to who was entitled to compensation and for how long.  In August 2022, OCB agreed with all our arguments, and ordered the City to pay anyone who had or would have had the vehicles but for the City’s decision, that the City pay them for every mile they drove or will drive until the union and City come to an agreement otherwise, and to reimburse their tolls in the City.  We are thrilled that the City’s disregard for the rights of union-represented members were vindicated in this case.

IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq. Wins Supreme Court Decision Reinstating Town Employee.

IDCWLaw has extensive experience with civil service disciplinary matters, up to and including termination.  For decades we have represented civil servants in disciplinary hearings and in appeals of disciplinary decisions before the Civil Service Commission and in State Supreme Court.  Just this month, August 2022, IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq. convinced a Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice to overturn the Town of Islip’s decision to terminate an employee, in McMaster v. Town of Islip.   There, after a hearing, the Town terminated the employee for excessive absenteeism.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr. Castro successfully argued that the Town’s decision was excessive. He also successfully argued the Town ignored the fact that a supervisor testified other employees had similar attendance records but were not disciplined.  He explained the Town did not give the employee a fair chance at the hearing, in the end. Specifically, they initially fired the employee, after a hearing, without even providing him a copy of the disciplinary Report and Recommendation. Mr. Castro convinced the Town that was plainly improper, which resulted in the initial rescission of the termination to give the employee and Mr. Castro a chance to respond to the Report and Recommendation.  The Town even had to recuse the Department’s commissioner from the final decision because of this initial decision to terminate the employee improperly But, in the end, they fired the employee anyway. Mr. Castro argued that the Town was heavy handed and did not give the employee a fair due process hearing.  As a result, the Court ordered him reinstated and remanded the matter back to the Town for a more appropriate penalty.