Editor’s Note: The following article details our victory in a class-action grievance between CSEA and Greene County following the unlawful terminations of five CSEA Greene County Unit members. The Work Force also spoke with several of the affected workers about the case. Read their stories.
More than four years after being unfairly terminated by Greene County, five CSEA-represented county workers are seeing justice.
Our union, through our in-house Legal Department, litigated and fought to protect them from being unlawfully terminated beyond a probationary period of 26 weeks without disciplinary due process.
Led by CSEA Senior Associate Counsel Jennifer C. Zegarelli, the fight successfully ended with the grievants being reinstated to their previous Greene County positions, with back pay and benefits including retirement credit and reimbursement for health insurance premiums.
For the five county workers, it was a long-awaited victory. After the terminations, the workers, led by Jessica Nero, turned to their union for help.
In May and October 2013, CSEA filed with Greene County a class-action grievance and a separate grievance on behalf of employee Jessica Nero, alleging that county management unilaterally dismissed the bargaining unit members after their completion of the 26-week probationary period set forth in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.
Nero and the four other bargaining unit members involved in the case were all terminated by Greene County between 26 and 52 weeks of employment.
Upon the filing of the grievances, Greene County attempted to prevent the matter from proceeding to arbitration by moving to stay the arbitration of the grievance in state court.
Through many efforts by the county to defeat the issue from being arbitrated, including review by New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, the issue was deemed to have been properly negotiated. Greene County was ordered to proceed to arbitration.
The arbitration hearing, held in April 2016, involved the testimony of all five grievants, then Greene County Unit President Judith Ganje and various Greene County officials and representatives.
The arbitrator found that Greene County violated the terms of our collective bargaining agreement, and ordered that the five workers be reinstated with full back pay and benefits.
But it wasn’t yet over for the workers. In yet another challenge to defeat the rights of these employees, in December 2016, Greene County filed an application with the state court to vacate the arbitration decision, which was denied. Afterward, Greene County filed an appeal of that decision, which it ultimately abandoned.
In January 2018, the five workers were finally awarded their lost back pay and benefits. Two of the workers opted to return to county employment, while the remaining workers are now employed elsewhere.
“We are very relieved to see our represented workers finally made whole after several difficult years,” CSEA Capital Region President Ron Briggs said. “While it was a struggle for them to support themselves and their families, they also had the power of our union and our services at hand to have their backs when they needed it the most.”