The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Clark, determined that the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) properly found that the petitioner, the Buffalo Teachers Federation, engaged in an unlawful strike in violation of Civil Service Law section 210. There was a violent confrontation between two older individuals and students outside the school at dismissal time. One of the older individuals, while fleeing the police, said he was going to come back the next day with a gun. He said “if you show up to work tomorrow, you’re to all die.” A teacher at the school, Nicole LaRusch, called an immediate meeting where calling in sick the next day was discussed. Ultimately 23 teachers called in sick. The question before the Third Department was whether there was “substantial evidence” in the record to support the PERB’s ruling the action was an illegal strike:
Civil Service Law article 14, known as the Taylor Law, provides that “[n]o public employee or employee organization shall engage in a strike, and no public employee or employee organization shall cause, instigate, encourage, or condone a strike” (Civil Service Law § 210 ). The term “strike” is statutorily defined as “any strike or other concerted stoppage of work or slowdown by public employees” … . “[T]he substantial evidence standard is a minimal standard” that is “less than a preponderance of the evidence, and demands only that a given inference is reasonable and plausible, not necessarily the most probable” … . * * *
According to [a] teacher’s aide union representative, LaRusch stated that they were calling out sick because “the principal didn’t care about [their] safety” and that they were sending a message to “downtown” — meaning the district’s headquarters — so that they could “get resource officers in the school.” In our view, the … evidence amply supports the conclusion that, in violation of the Taylor Law, LaRusch and the 15 other absent teachers engaged in a concerted slowdown or stoppage of work as part of a coordinated effort to obtain a safer work environment … . Matter of Buffalo Teachers Fedn., Inc. v New York State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 2022 NY Slip Op 04680, Third Dept 7-21-22
Practice Point: 23 teachers called in sick after a person threatened to return to the school the next day with a gun and kill the teachers who showed up for work. That action was deemed an illegal strike in violation of the Civil Service Law section 210.