In Schenectady Police Benevolent Assn. v. Public Empl. Relations Bd. (supra, 85 N.Y.2d 480, 484-487), we concluded that subjects specifically covered by section 207-c are not mandatorily negotiable.Summary of this case from Matter of City of Watertown
Argued February 7, 1995
Decided March 28, 1995
Appeal from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Third Judicial Department, Harold J. Hughes, Jr., J.
Roemer and Featherstonhaugh, P.C., Albany (James W. Roemer, Jr., and Elayne G. Gold of counsel), for appellant-respondent in the two above-entitled proceedings.
Grasso Grasso, Schenectady (Jane K. Finin of counsel), for respondent-appellant in the two above-entitled proceedings. David P. Quinn, Albany, and Gary Johnson for respondent in the two above-entitled proceedings.
The issue here is whether General Municipal Law § 207-c requires mandatory bargaining before a police officer who is injured in the line of duty or becomes ill during the performance of duty can be forced to (1) perform light duty, (2) undergo surgery at the direction of the City or (3) waive the confidentiality of medical records. Because the Appellate Division properly concluded that none of these matters is subject to mandatory bargaining, we affirm.
General Municipal Law § 207-c was enacted in 1961 and provided that a police officer "who is injured in the performance of his duties or who is taken sick as a result of the performance of his duties" could receive salary or wages, as well as medical benefits from the municipality. During February and March 1990, the City of Schenectady sought to adopt six new rules governing the receipt of benefits under General Municipal Law § 207-c. The three rules pertinent to this appeal require that a police officer (1) assume a light duty position, as ordered by the City, (2) submit to surgery as ordered by the City and (3) execute a medical confidentiality waiver form for the City's examining physician when the officer appears for examination of a General Municipal Law § 207-c injury or illness.
In April 1990, the Schenectady Police Benevolent Association (PBA) filed an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), alleging that the City of Schenectady violated Civil Service Law § 209-a (1) (a), (c) and (d) by unilaterally and improperly instituting new rules and procedures relating to qualification for benefits under General Municipal Law § 207-c. Underlying this charge was the City's requirement that several police officers recovering from injuries suffered on the job return to work to perform light duty in the Schenectady Police Department. Additionally, the City required one officer to submit to surgery.
After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) rejected any contention that Civil Service Law § 209-a (1) (a) and (c) had been violated since "no evidence of improper motivation was presented by the PBA." The ALJ found that the order to perform light duty or to undergo surgery was not a mandatory subject of bargaining. The ALJ also found that the City had no right to require a medical confidentiality waiver since this matter was subject to mandatory bargaining. She thus found a violation of Civil Service Law § 209-a (1) (d). Both the PBA and the City filed exceptions to the ALJ's findings and PERB affirmed the ALJ's decision.
Civil Service Law § 209-a (1) (a) and (c) read as follows: "It shall be an improper practice for a public employer or its agents deliberately (a) to interfere with, restrain or coerce public employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed in section two hundred two [right of organization] for the purpose of depriving them of such rights * * * (c) to discriminate against any employee for the purpose of encouraging or discouraging membership in, or participation in the activities of, any employee organization."
Civil Service Law § 209-a (1) (d) makes it an improper employer practice "to refuse to negotiate in good faith with the duly recognized or certified representatives of its public employees."
The PBA commenced the first CPLR article 78 proceeding seeking to annul PERB's determination with regard to the performance of light duty and submission to surgery. The City instituted a CPLR article 78 proceeding to annul PERB's affirmation of the ALJ's decision, in part, because it required mandatory bargaining for a medical confidentiality waiver. The two proceedings were consolidated.
Supreme Court confirmed PERB's determination, except with respect to the medical confidentiality waiver which it found not to be subject to mandatory bargaining. The Appellate Division modified Supreme Court's judgment by concluding that the medical confidentiality waiver is subject to mandatory collective bargaining only insofar as it relates to the release of information other than that relating to whether the officer remains disabled or is capable of light duty. This Court granted both the City's motion and the PBA's cross motion for leave to appeal.
The PBA contends that there is no legislative intent or scheme discernible in General Municipal Law § 207-c to remove light duty and compulsory elective surgery from mandatory collective negotiations. The City argues that the Appellate Division's modification of Supreme Court's ruling with respect to medical confidentiality waivers adversely impacts upon the rights of a municipality as articulated in General Municipal Law § 207-c. PERB maintains that General Municipal Law § 207-c indicates a legislative intent that light duty and surgery not be the subject of mandatory collective bargaining. PERB also contends that no statutory or other authority eliminates the requirement of mandatory collective bargaining with respect to a waiver of medical confidentiality.
First, concerning the standard of review, we recognize that an administrative agency's determination requires deference in the area of its expertise (see, Rosen v Public Empl. Relations Bd., 72 N.Y.2d 42, 47-48). Where, however, the matters at issue involve statutory interpretation, such deference is inapplicable (id.; Matter of Webster Cent. School Dist. v Public Empl. Relations Bd., 75 N.Y.2d 619, 626). This case involves only statutory interpretation.
It is settled that the Taylor Law (Civil Service Law § 200 et seq.) generally requires bargaining between public employers and employees regarding terms and conditions of employment (see, Matter of Board of Educ. v New York State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 75 N.Y.2d 660, 667, quoting Matter of Cohoes City School Dist. v Cohoes Teachers Assn., 40 N.Y.2d 774, 778). The policy of such bargaining in this State is "strong" and "sweeping" (id.). Even that policy, however, is negated under special circumstances. It is unquestioned that the bargaining mandate may be circumscribed by "plain" and "clear" legislative intent or by statutory provisions indicating the Legislature's "inescapably implicit" design to do so (Matter of Webster Cent. School Dist. v Public Empl. Relations Bd., 75 N.Y.2d 619, 627, supra; see also, Matter of Board of Educ., 75 N.Y.2d 660, 667, 668, supra).
Turning to the specific issues before us, we hold that General Municipal Law § 207-c authorizes the City to require both light duty and, under the appropriate circumstances, even surgery, where reasonable. As for light duty, General Municipal Law § 207-c (3) provides that where, in the opinion of a physician or health authority, a police officer is "unable to perform his regular duties as a result of * * * injury or sickness but is able, in their opinion, to perform specified types of light police duty," the officer is entitled to receive salary and other benefits only if that light duty is performed. That the City ordered the officers to submit to light duty is consistent with the authority given in this provision.
The PBA claims that General Municipal Law § 207-c does not authorize surgery absent bargaining. However, General Municipal Law § 207-c (1) clearly provides otherwise. After stating that an officer who is injured in the performance of his duties or becomes ill in the performance of his duties is entitled to salary, wages and medical benefits, the statute provides that these benefits may be withheld if the officer refuses to undergo surgery. Regarding this claim, the statute provides, in part,
"Provided, however, and notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the municipal health authorities or any physician appointed for the purpose by the municipality, after a determination has first been made that such injury or sickness was incurred during, or resulted from, such performance of duty, may attend any such injured or sick policeman, from time to time, for the purpose of providing medical, surgical or other treatment" (emphasis supplied).
The section goes on to provide that anyone who refuses to accept "medical treatment or hospital care" waives the right to benefits under the section. Unquestionably the Legislature contemplated that municipalities would, where appropriate and reasonable, require police officers to submit to corrective surgery, or forfeit benefits under the statute. In this regard, the police officers here do not differ from firefighters (see, Matter of Mondello v Beekman, 56 N.Y.2d 513, affg on opn below at 78 A.D.2d 824). In Mondello v Beekman, the petitioner's application for line-of-duty disability retirement was dismissed because the petitioner had failed to accept proper medical treatment. In affirming on the opinion of the Appellate Division, this Court tacitly acknowledged that the Medical Board could require corrective medical treatment, including surgery. Additionally, any officer would have general recourse to article 78 proceedings to challenge an allegedly arbitrary or unreasonable intrusion.
Although the waiver issue is not as clear, we determine that the Appellate Division reached the correct result by narrowing the City's waiver requirement to only those items necessary for the City's determination of the nature of the officer's medical problem and its relationship to his or her duties. The waiver sought by the City in this action is far too broad, requiring all medical records of the officer. Nothing in General Municipal Law § 207-c authorizes the City to require disclosure of such broad-based information. Any requirement of waiver, apart from that required with respect to the applicable injury or sickness, should be the subject of collective bargaining. In a similar vein, Matter of Board of Educ. v New York State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd. ( 75 N.Y.2d 660, supra) held that the New York City Board of Education's financial disclosure requirements, which were similarly intrusive regarding employees' personal financial matters, were subject to bargaining.
Finally, it should be clear that the procedures for implementation of the requirements of General Municipal Law § 207-c are not before us. Those procedures may or may not be subject to bargaining. For example, no reason has been shown here why officers should not be permitted the opportunity to obtain and have considered the views of their personal physicians as to surgery.
Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed, without costs.
Chief Judge KAYE and Judges SIMONS, TITONE and LEVINE concur with Judge SMITH; Judge BELLACOSA dissents in part in a separate opinion in which Judge CIPARICK concurs.
Order affirmed, without costs.
We agree with the Court to affirm the Appellate Division order insofar as it resolves the issues of the waiver of confidentiality of medical records and the performance of light duty. With respect to this Court's affirmance of the portion of the Appellate Division order that upholds the authority of the municipal employer to impose surgical and medical treatments on police officers injured in the line of duty, we respectfully dissent and vote to modify.
General Municipal Law § 207-c should not be construed to effect forfeiture of police officer employee benefits for refusal to submit to surgical and medical treatments unilaterally mandated by physicians employed by the municipality, without at least the counterbalance of collective bargaining protections.
The Court has long recognized the "strong and sweeping policy of the State" to support employer-employee negotiations under the Civil Service Law (Matter of Cohoes City School Dist. v Cohoes Teachers Assn., 40 N.Y.2d 774, 778). Absent a clear and explicit withdrawal of this employer-employee matter from collective bargaining, sound statutory interpretation, legislative intent and public policy concerns militate against the imposition of such a profound, governmental, management, encroachment of employee, personal autonomy. The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruled that the forfeiture of employee benefits for the refusal to submit to mandated surgical and medical directives is a matter outside the scope of collective bargaining. We agree with the Court that PERB's determination is not entitled to special deference (see, Matter of Newark Val. Cent. School Dist. v Public Empl. Relations Bd., 83 N.Y.2d 315, 320; Matter of Webster Cent. School Dist. v Public Empl. Relations Bd., 75 N.Y.2d 619, 626). On the pure statutory construction ground, however, we conclude that the PERB determination in this respect should be annulled.
In pertinent part, General Municipal Law § 207-c provides:
"Any sheriff, undersheriff, deputy sheriff or corrections officer of the sheriff's department of any county or any member of a police force of any county * * * who is injured in the performance of his duties or who is taken sick as a result of the performance of his duties so as to necessitate medical or other lawful remedial treatment shall be paid by the municipality by which he is employed the full amount of his regular salary. * * * Provided, however * * * the municipal health authorities or any physician appointed for the purpose by the municipality * * * may attend any such injured or sick policeman, from time to time, for the purpose of providing medical, surgical or other treatment, or for making inspections. * * * Any injured or sick policeman who shall refuse to accept medical treatment or hospital care or shall refuse to permit medical inspections as herein authorized * * * shall be deemed to have waived his rights under this section in respect to expenses for medical treatment or hospital care rendered and for salary or wages payable after such refusal" (emphasis added).
The fact that General Municipal Law § 207-c declares that an officer's refusal to accept medical treatment shall be deemed a waiver of rights to benefits and salary does not solve or answer the essential and threshold issue in this case. This waiver provision introduces no final entity, procedural protections or process or mechanism for determining the necessity or propriety of municipal employer-mandated medical directives. The statute prescribes no regimen for rendering such determinations.
It is no answer, therefore, and plainly insufficient protection for employees, when the Court suggests that attendant procedures affecting the core power may be subject to collective bargaining or, ultimately, to judicial CPLR article 78 review or even to a generalized reasonableness standard. The merits or the review of the assigned treatment are not germane to the resolution of the issue of the power to compel in the first instance under statutory interpretation. Moreover, since no explicit or inescapably implied legislative expression takes the core power or the attendant procedural protections out of the traditional and ordinary collective bargaining sphere, the whole, intertwined power should be subject to that essential employer-employee protection and policy preference (see, Matter of Webster Cent. School Dist. v Public Empl. Relations Bd., 75 N.Y.2d 619, 626-628, supra).
Our analysis flows from the obligation of courts to look to the statutory language and give it "its most obvious and natural meaning" (Ball v Allstate Ins. Co., 81 N.Y.2d 22, 25; Matter of Greenberg [Ryder Truck Rental], 70 N.Y.2d 573, 577; McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 1, Statutes § 94, at 188). Complementing that principle is the axiom that "`[w]here the statute is clear and unambiguous on its face, the legislation must be interpreted as it exists * * * [and] the courts may not resort to rules of construction to broaden the scope and application of a statute'" (Doctors Council v New York City Employees' Retirement Sys., 71 N.Y.2d 669, 674, quoting Bender v Jamaica Hosp., 40 N.Y.2d 560, 561-562).
Transcending these general nostrums in this case is the explicitly apt State policy favoring the collective bargaining of terms and conditions of employment (see, Matter of Webster Cent. School Dist. v Public Empl. Relations Bd., 75 N.Y.2d 619, supra). In Webster (at 627), the Court held unanimously that "any implied intention that there not be mandatory negotiation must be `plain and clear' (Syracuse Teachers Assn. v Board of Educ., 35 N.Y.2d 743, 744), or `inescapably implicit' in the statute (Matter of Cohoes City School Dist. v Cohoes Teachers Assn., 40 N.Y.2d 774, 778 [other citation omitted])."
The instant case fails these general and specific statutory interpretation tests with respect to the subject of unilateral power of a municipal employer to impose surgical and medical protocols under penalty of forfeiture of statutory employee benefits. The plain language of the statute evinces no express or implied legislative intent that a municipal employer, through its physicians, is unilaterally empowered to command its employees to submit themselves to invasive physical and medical procedures and treatments (compare, Rivers v Katz, 67 N.Y.2d 485, 492; see also, Schloendorff v Society of N.Y. Hosp., 211 N.Y. 125, 129). Indeed, the active phrase of art is "attend * * * for the purpose of providing," a phrase very different from the more easily articulated "may direct" — if that is what the Legislature intended.
General Municipal Law § 207-c is a remedial statute enacted for the benefit of police officers injured in line of duty. As such, it must be liberally construed in their favor (see, Matter of Mashnouk v Miles, 55 N.Y.2d 80, 88). As noted, the Legislature invested the physicians of municipal employers with the limited authority to "attend" the injured police officer "for the purpose of providing medical, surgical or other treatment." Augmentation of this limited role and authorization, however, with the extraordinary unilateral power to order surgical and medical protocols, is not expressly, reasonably, or inescapably implied in the statute. For courts to infer such a profound transformation and vast intrusive power from legislative silence would be unusual in any case, but in matters such as are in dispute here — mandatory medical protocols under penalty of forfeiture of employee salary and medical benefits — would be astounding, especially in the face of the more restrictive legislative language actually used. The Court's gloss thus lacks statutory roots or interpretative sustenance and transgresses the limitation on legislating under the guise of statutory construction (see, People v Heine, 9 N.Y.2d 925, 929). At the very least, New York's well-established preference for allowing such subjects to be resolved by collective bargaining ought to play a part (see, Matter of Cohoes City School Dist. v Cohoes Teachers Assn., 40 N.Y.2d 774, 778, supra).
Our analysis and application of these principles is cogently reinforced by legislative history. Relevant memoranda submitted by the Department of Law to the Governor indicate that the primary purpose of this law is to provide "for payment of salary, medical and hospital expenses" for injured or sick police officers (Mem of Dept of Law, Bill Jacket, L 1961, ch 920; see, Governor's Approval Mem, 1961 N.Y. Legis Ann, at 486-487). The Bill Jacket contains no reference to granting municipal physicians unilateral authority to order medical protocols without at least collective bargaining protections. Because the determination that a police officer must submit to employer-directed medical procedures violates personal autonomy, ordinary collective bargaining protections seem sensible and necessary, absent an explicit legislative withdrawal of that employee safeguard, which could have been so plainly set forth if intended (see, Rivers v Katz, 67 N.Y.2d 485, 492, supra; Schloendorff v Society of N Y Hosp., 211 N.Y. 125, 129, supra; see also, Winston v Lee, 470 U.S. 753, 759; Mills v Rogers, 457 U.S. 291, 299).
The Legislature might arguably have explicitly prohibited collective bargaining with respect to this significant subject matter for some compelling, demonstrable State purpose. It did not do so. That ought to be the end of this case on that issue.
In this setting, on this record and on this statute's reading, this essential safeguard should be accorded priority, at least for collective bargaining protections purposes, over a statutory interpretation which, only by substantial judicial gloss, would justify unilateral and mandatory medical directives from municipal employers against the interests of particular public safety employees. Frankly, we find it hard to conjure up any term of employment that would impinge more significantly upon an individual employee's personal prerogatives than does the subject that divides our ruling on this part of this case.
Thus, we would modify the order of the Appellate Division and annul that part of the PERB determination that removes employer-mandated surgery from collective bargaining give and take.