Can a teacher, covered by a collective bargaining agreement maintain an action pursuant to Civil Service law 75-b, the Whistleblower’s Law?

No. Michele Ehrlich, an ESL teacher at PS 79 in Whitestone until her probationary termination in July 2011, complained to several DOE departments and some private advocacy groups about a violation of an IEP of one of her students. After her termination she claimed she was covered by the Whistleblower’s Law Section 75-b. (A federal claim concerning her free speech rights was dismissed in a federal action that had been removed to that court by the DOE).

Acting Justice Ellen M. Coin ruled that Ehrlich could not maintain her action under the Whistleblower’s law since she was covered by the UFT contract and was required to exhaust her remedies available under the grievance procedure before she could commence an action.

Ehrlich v. DOE (November 7, 2013, Decided)


Is the UFT required to submit contract changes or a proposed contract to the membership for ratification?

No. With the recent announcement that the UFT has agreed with the mayor to give-back ATR rights and study sabbaticals the issue is raised as to whether this “agreement” must be sent to the membership or even the Delegate Assembly for ratification. It is long been known in New York public sector legal circles that ratification votes, unless called for in a union’s constitution or by-laws, are not legally required by New York State Labor Law.

In 1973 Julius Ward, a non-member of the bargaining unit, petitioned the Court to invalidate a ratification vote of his unit for a new contract between Nassau County and the CSEA. The Court went through the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act (the Taylor Law) to determine if there were any provision requiring votes of all members of a bargaining unit.

The Court determined that not only were there no requirements that non-union members vote in ratification votes but there was no requirement to hold a ratification vote at all.

So, why does the UFT conduct any ratification vote at all if it is not required by law?

It is clear that the UFT, as all public sector unions, is very politically sensitive. The ratification vote on full contracts has become common practice even if it isn’t required. However, this does not prevent the whittling away of teacher rights, without ratification votes, in the interim.

N.B. Civil Service Law 204-a provides that where an agreement is submitted to the membership a notice (reading out loud at a meeting and printing on any proposed agreement) must be provided that the agreement which requires additional funding will not be effective until a legislative body a provided for the funds.

In the Matter of Julius Wald, Petitioner, v. Nassau Chapter Civil Service Employees Assn., Inc., et al., Respondents, Supreme Court of New York, Special Term, Nassau County, 72 Misc. 2d 723; 340 N.Y.S.2d 451; 1973 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 2235; 82 L.R.R.M. 2972, February 9, 1973