Q & A

Written on 09/11/2021
Will Aitchison

From New York:
Question: I have a union member that took a voluntary demotion due to some misconduct. The settlement agreement which was signed does not indicate a de­duction or reduced pay, it just states the member will be demoted from sergeant to deputy. The County failed to reduce the member’s pay when the demotion happened about six months ago. The County has now changed the member’s pay to deputy pay and is requesting the member pay the money back. I am looking for some case law if there is any related to this topic. Does a demotion in rank also include pay reduction or must the pay portion need to be negotiated?

Answer: Part of your question will require the advice of local counsel. Many states have statutes that forbid an employer unilaterally recouping overpayments from an employee, instead obligating the employer to seek relief in court. We don’t know whether New York has such a statute.

As to the settlement agreement, we don’t know of a case addressing the precise fact situation you’ve laid out. The types of agreement you’re describing normally is quite specific as to rank and pay step after demotion. The situation seems ripe for the employer and union to meet to attempt to resolve all questions concerning the demotion. Our hunch is that if the matter ends up with an arbitrator, an arbitrator would rule that the use of “demotion” implies a reduction to the appropriate pay step in the new rank.

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