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Leaves Of Absence For New York State Agency Employees Injured By Assaults At Work

March 29, 2021

Leaves Of Absence For New York State Agency Employees Injured By Assaults At Work

Certain employees of New York State government agencies work in extremely dangerous environments, including but not limited to employees of the Department of Corrections and Community Service (DOCCS), Office of Family and Children Services (OFCS), etc. Not infrequently, employees who work in these environments are injured as a result of physical altercations. Injuries sustained during such incidents can lead to lengthy periods of lost time from work.

Pursuant to New York State Civil Service Law §71, a NYS employee can be terminated from employment following a one year absence from work. However, for a NY State employee who is assaulted at work, the injured worker is entitled to a two year leave of absence.

A recent decision of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division is relevant and significant to the claims of many New York State employees who are injured as a result of an assault at work.

The decision in Matter of Morales involved the nuanced issue of what is meant by an “assault”. The facts in Morales were that an inmate punched a Corrections Officer (CO), and when another CO ran to provide assistance, the inmate swung a punch at him but missed. A scuffle ensued and the CO was injured during that scuffle. NYS DOCCS sought to terminate the injured CO following a one year absence, but the injured CO challenged that asserting that he was injured as a result of an assault.

The Appellate Division agreed with the CO that his injuries were the result of an assault and that he was entitled to a two year leave of absence. Significantly, the Department of Corrections defines an assault as “an intentional physical act of violence directed toward an employee by in inmate or parolee”. The Appellate Division found that the fact that the punch thrown missed was not relevant because under the definition used by DOCCS it was only required that the physical act of violence be directed toward the employee by an inmate. Contact was not required. Additionally, Civil Service Law §71 provides for the two year leave of absence when disability results from an assault and does not require that the disability had been directly caused by the assault.

This decision is significant as it provides a basis to challenge a determination by a New York State agency to terminate an injured worker after a one year absence from work where the work-related injuries are the result of an assault.

If you or someone that you know works for a New York State government agency and suffers an injury at work, the preservation of that employment despite a lengthy absence from work is an important issue. New York State agencies only need to extend a leave of absence for one year in most cases, but if the injury is due to a covered assault the State must provide a two year leave of absence. 

Call The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC for a free consultation on the potential benefits and protections available to you under the law. For over 25 years, The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC has represented injured and disabled individuals throughout New York State with their New York State Workers’ Compensation, New York State Disability Retirement, Social Security Disability and Veterans Administration claims. That representation is now provided in Florida as well. 

Should you have any questions or you would like to discuss this matter with us further, please contact us at 1-866-965-2667

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