Political Antics or Tough Times? There are things happening in the New York Court system, including the New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers courts many of our readers are unaware. Political battles and skirmishes, exacerbated by budget cuts have caused over 400 State workers to be laid off. The issue revolves about the manner in which these firings took place, rather than the redundancies themselves. The New York Court system has allegedly violated New York State Civil Service Law. The New York State Court system designates employees among four categories. They are:
1. Elected judges are not affected by the layoffs; and neither are their personally hired staff; and
2. Management is also not affected. Their number consist of a cadre of high level boys’ club “members” who have been given their positions by the chief judges; and
3. Appointed staff are personally hired by chief clerks to temporary, non-permanent positions; some have been on the job for over 30 years. In the event of layoffs, Civil Service Law designates they be first to be laid off, but none were; and
4. Civil Service Employees, who are supposedly protected by New York State Law and seniority…
Of the approximately 450 workers laid off so far, at least 214 of those fired were allegedly fired illegally. To that end, there are currently 214 law suits being filed against the New York Court system for allegedly illegally ignoring Civil Service Law. There are workers with 25 plus years who have been laid off because their original titles were 'erased,' while temporary workers in the exact same titles remain.
Not only that, but all those workers laid off are losing most of the accumulated time they worked years to earn; never abusing sick time, they stand to losing it all. Many workers have 10 to 40 weeks worth of sick time saved up. One may deduce the courts are stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of time collectively from the employees impacted; another violation of law.
Union hierarchy and their respective legal counsel attest in private the firings are completely illegal, but nothing is being done to thwart or put an end to the illegal firings. The firings are being deliberately permitted to occur without any legal contest. This, so lawsuits demanding back pay may find remedy through the courts. In the long run, one may conjecture that these budget cuts will cost the State three times as much than it would have to not lay off anyone at all. This is the type of conduct that gives evidence of being a political game, not a result of fiscal restraint or tough times.
Let’s look at Westchester as one example. Westchester is the only court in New York State that has three family courts. It costs $650,000 a year to rent an old building in Yonkers, and $350,000 to rent an old building in New Rochelle. The main court, situated in White Plains, was built to absorb the Yonkers and New Rochelle courts within itself, instead it sits half unused while the state pays a million dollars a year in rental fees to keep unneeded sites open. In a recent internal investigation, the Yonkers court site was designated as unfit and infested with severe mold build up and air quality problems, never mind the fact that the building is not designed to support the weight of the thousands of files stored there, and that the concrete floors are literally cracking and in danger of collapse.
Further still, when workers come in on any Monday morning, they find rat droppings on their desks because the building is infested. Let's not forget security; anyone can walk in off the street, stand in the elevator at 5:15 p.m., and simply wait for it to be called upstairs. There are NO court officers in the building after 5:00 p.m.
Many times strangers have been found in secured areas after designated closing hours, leaving workers, and people’s files unprotected. There are also other allegedly, illegal activities that would surprise Westchesterites. In Yonkers Family Court, a court specifically designed for the protection of women and children is such an example. Is it a surprise to hear that management has allegedly incorporated the use of fear tactics to coerce female employees to work for free?
It is common knowledge that there are women who arrive for work from 8:30 a.m. and end their day between 6 or 7:00 p.m., every day, doing so without and lunch break, yet get paid for only seven hours. Management has burdened them individually and collectively with more that anyone could manage. They tell them of imminent layoffs coming. They have them psychologically at wits end. They tell them they are not allowed to work without pay, but then tell them the work must be done or they might have to be fired. After the brow beating harangue, management watch as the women swipe out on the time clock and go back to work. They do this so they swipe out by the 7 hour maximum limit, and then coerce them to continue working without pay long after the courts are closed. Many people put in extra hours without pay; that is, on their own time, without pay, in fear they will lose their employ if they do not comply.
This is an allegedly abusive environment at the behest of management. Walmart recently lost a legal suit on similar circumstances for mistreating their employees and paid millions in compensation for their alleged conduct.