COBA’s Attorneys, Koehler & Isaacs LLP, File Suits to Protect NYC Correction Officers’ Employment and Contractual Rights

By: Steven Isaacs

Partner, Koehler & Isaacs 

General Counsel, Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association

Under the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association’s recent Memorandum of Agreement, The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) “shall send the union a copy of any directive or order affecting terms and conditions of employment at least ten (10) calendar days prior to issuance, except where the Department determines emergency circumstances make such a timeframe impracticable, in which case the policy will be shared as soon as practicable prior to issuance.”  This important provision exists for many reasons, including, before the policy comes into effect, (1) providing COBA an opportunity to review it; (2) possibly challenge it in Court; and (3) discuss it with the DOC in order to suggest important changes.  On July 24, 2020, the DOC provided to COBA a copy of Operations Order 10/20, which specifically impacts and modifies the command discipline process.  The DOC did not provide COBA with the ten days for which it bargained.  COBA filed a grievance, seeking arbitration, and is now seeking a Court order to stop the effectiveness of the policy pending arbitration.  

On August 3, 2020, COBA filed an improper practice petition with the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining seeking an immediate injunction preventing the implementation and enforcement of DOC Operations Order 10/20. Operations Order 10/20 permits the DOC to conduct Use of Force disciplinary proceedings as both Command Discipline and Memoranda of Complaints for a single incident. This will result in harsher penalties, duplicate proceeding and an acceleration of the loss of the Command Discipline option for Correction Officers. Operations Order 10/20 was implemented without prior negotiations as required by the New York City Collective Bargaining Law. COBA argues in its petition that the failure to bargain will result in immediate and irreparable harm to officers with both Command Discipline and Memoranda of Complaints currently pending and any who may be charged in either process going forward.  As the City has a mandatory duty to bargain over disciplinary procedure, COBA argues that the failure to bargain over Operations Order 10/20 prior to implementation violates the Collective Bargaining Law and that the instant nature of the harm warrants injunctive relief.

COBA’s Aggressive Legal Actions Prevents Correction Officers from Working Triple Tours of Duty and Postpones Virtual Oath Trials

In April, 2020 at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, Koehler & Isaacs, as General Counsel to the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), sued the City of New York, seeking a Judicial order that would prevent Correction Officers from being forced to work triple tours of duty.
The lawsuit also sought a judicial order compelling Correction Officers to test negative for COVID-19, prior to returning back to work if they had previously tested positive or self- quarantined. At the time, well over 1,000 Correction Officers had tested positive for COVID-19 and many more were out sick.

As a result, the New York City Department of Correction ordered a number of Correction Officers to work triple tours of duty, often forcing them to miss meals and jeopardize their physical health and welfare.

COBA’s initial request for a temporary restraining order was denied and the case was adjourned to allow the court to hear further arguments.  Upon further review by a different Judge, Judge Pamela Jackman-Brown, COBA’s request was granted and a preliminary injunction is now in place, preventing the City of New York from ordering Correction Officers to work triple tours of duty, pending further proceedings and a possible trial. Commenting on the significance of Judge Jackman-Brown’s decision, COBA’s Attorney, Steven Isaacs, said, “The granting of a preliminary injunction against the City of New York is an extraordinary measure that is rarely achieved. In this action, we maintained that the Department of Correction violated the fundamental rights of Correction Officers to bodily integrity protection, which is firmly established under our State Constitution.” In addition to Judge Blackman-Brown’s decision, Mayor Bill de Blaisio, in a rare move, explicitly agreed that the practice of triple tours was a “horrible, dumb mistake” and would not be allowed moving forward. Concerning the issue of negative testing, the Judge denied COBA’s request for an order requiring negative testing, maintaining that the science is very unclear as to the best testing measures and that the City is following CDC guidelines.
“There is no higher priority for us than ensuring our members work under the safest working conditions possible,” said COBA President Benny Boscio. “We are pleased that the Judge in this matter agreed with our arguments over triple tours and we will continue to hold the Department of Correction accountable whenever it violates our employment rights. This injunction will maintain even greater significance if a second wave of COVID-19 hits our jails again, forcing our members to self-quarantine.”

In another important legal victory for COBA, COBA’s Attorneys, Koehler and Isaacs, were successful in temporarily preventing the Office of Trials and Administrative Hearings (OATH) from holding virtual disciplinary hearings for Correction Officers, which would have posed serious implications for the rights of Correction Officers litigating their disciplinary charges in a potentially public forum. The union will pursue this litigation in a trial expected to be held in November.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay of $30,000 for NYC CO!

This case involved a Correction Officer, assigned to Horizon Juvenile Detention Center, who was fired for failing to fill out Horizon forms. We brought an Article 78 suit , which argued that the CO should have been given the same chance to fill out forms like everyone else, after initially refusing, but she was denied the opportunity to do so and was terminated. We successfully won her reinstatement with full back pay of $30,000.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay of $25,000 for NYC CO!

This case involved a Correction Officer, assigned to Horizon Juvenile Detention Center, who was fired for failing to fill out Horizon forms. We brought an Article 78 suit , which argued that the CO should have been given the same chance to fill out forms like everyone else, after initially refusing, but he was denied the opportunity to do so and was terminated. We successfully won his reinstatement with full back pay of $25,000.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay for NYC CO!

This case involved a Correction Officer, assigned to Horizon Juvenile Detention Center, who was fired for failing to fill out Horizon forms. We brought an Article 78 suit , which argued that the CO should have been given the same chance to fill out forms like everyone else, after initially refusing, but he was denied the opportunity to do so and was terminated. We successfully won his reinstatement with full back pay.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay for NYC CO!

Koehler & Isaacs successfully represented a New York City Correction officer who was injured in two Use of Force cases. The CO was MMR for a year and then returned to work full duty. The DOC subsequently terminated him months after he returned to duty. Koehler & Isaacs sued, alleging violation of disability discrimination laws. Thanks to our vigorous legal representation and advocacy, we secured his reinstatement with full back pay.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Significant Legal Victory for NYC Correction Officers

State Supreme Court Judge Acknowledges, for the First Time, That the City Has Failed to Keep Correction Officers Safe, Gives The Green Light for Potentially Precedent-Setting Case

By: Steven Isaacs & Liam Castro

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association brought a case, by its attorneys Koehler and Isaacs LLP, and the first of its kind in New York, against the City because of its failure to provide to correction officers proper training to deal with, and equipment to protect themselves against violent inmates. COBA believes the City’s failures have resulted, and continue to result in unnecessary, preventable, and serious injuries to its members. This is unacceptable.

The City asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the action because it believed this involved a dispute over tactics, over which the Court has no jurisdiction. On July 12, 2019, the Court released its decision entirely rejecting the City’s argument. The Supreme Court held the City failed to address the danger caused by violent inmates. “This systematic failure is due, in large part, to DOC’s decision not to properly train and equip correction officers so that they can maintain order and security in the jail system, and protect themselves and others from these dangerous inmates…” The City had “not shown that DOC has implemented the controls mandated by the (Workplace Violence Law) or conducted risk assessments for incidents of violence, or defused areas of concern by taking mitigating steps, such as considering the propensities of a part of a jail population, as well as properly training and equipping correction officers to address some of these problems.”

COBA General Counsel Steven Isaacs said that he “hopes the City, instead of the usual defensive reaction and appeal, carefully examines the Judge’s reasoning and addresses the violence in the jails by ensuring it provide proper training and equipment to protect correction officers. Furthermore, the Judge’s decision in this case can benefit all municipal employees in the state whose employers are not properly addressing and protecting them from injuries.”

“In 2013 the NYS Department of Labor found 5 serious systematic violations of the law by the City’s Correction Department,” said COBA Director of Legal Affairs Marc Steier. “Since then, and particularly under the current union administration, the COBA has constantly pointed out the ineffectual Workplace Violence program at the Department. This is a historic judicial decision that gives all municipal workers a meaningful avenue of redress. The Judge’s denunciation of the Department’s reckless disregard of Officer’s safety validates what we have always known – Correction Officers did not “sign up” to be punching bags for inmates or cannon fodder for political ends. Unbelievably, the City’s attorneys made this very argument and even suggested the matter unworthy of judicial review. The reality is that the Department has a special relationship to keep its workers safe – a relationship they have long ignored in favor of so-called reform changes that make everyone unsafe. Perhaps with Judge Rubén Franco’s assistance, we can finally see sanity restored along with security.”

DAILY NEWS – Mercedes Maldonado, proves why K&I is the law firm union members turn to when defending their employment rights!

Correction officer fired after being injured at work settles suit with DOC

Chelsea Rose Marcius, New York Daily News
July 14, 2019


Correction Officer Michael Dispigno is back on the job after winning a wrongful termination suit against the Department of Correction that stemmed from his treatment for damage to his right knee, union officials told the Daily News.

Dispigno, 27, tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus while going through an agility course at the DOC academy in Middle Village, Queens in February 2016 — hearing a sickening pop, but treating the pain with ice packs and reporting to work the next day.

But when the pain persisted, the Brooklyn officer went to a doctor, who told him he needed surgery. The DOC’s Health Management Division approved his time off for the procedure.

Dispigno had the operation, but opted out of full ACL reconstruction that would’ve required a much longer post-surgical rehabilitation — and a lot of missed work time.

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DAILY NEWS – Koehler & Isaacs -Wrongfully fired Rikers Island correction officer wins legal fight to regain her job, collect back pay

Wrongfully fired Rikers Island correction officer wins legal fight to regain her job, collect back pay

by: Ellen Moynahan

While most folks on Rikers Island are eager to get out, Benita Sims fought her way back in.

The fired correction officer reached a June 19 settlement where the city agreed to reinstate her job, plus kick in more than $40,000 in back pay, after a legal battle over her dismissal last year, according to her attorneys.

Sims, 40, was canned barely two years after suffering an assortment of injuries when targeted by a pair of teenage inmates inside the notorious facility. She even received three positive evaluations from her supervisors in the months after the painful June 20, 2016, assault.

“I was just (badge) number 6462,” she told the Daily News about her firing. “They did not care about Benita Sims. They didn’t care about the officer who had got hurt by an inmate and who had stitches.”

Sims was working as support staff in 2016 at the Robert N. Devoren Complex, where juvenile offenders were housed. She had just escorted three boys, each shackled and fitted with thick mitts because of behavioral issues, to a classroom. The problems began when a teen in the adjoining room started screaming at the kids under Sims’ watch.

At that point, one of the boys in the classroom with Sims went after her — “he’s pushing, trying to hit me, I put my arm up to try and block him,” she recalled. “On the other side of me there was a boy sitting down, and at the time it hadn’t appeared that he had done anything. But when they rolled the videotapes back he’s the reason why I fell. I had the boy over me this way, and he actually snatched the chair.”

Sims injured her thumb, shoulder and foot when she landed hard on the floor. Subsequent MRIs in July and September showed ligament tears in all three locations.

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