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CSEA, Saratoga Springs to have day in court

City officials are due in state Supreme Court Thursday, March 6, for the first hearing of an Article 78 lawsuit filed against the city in January.

The Civil Service Employees Association filed the lawsuit Jan. 31 on behalf of Secretary to City Council Katherine Moran. The suit alleges Moran was docked pay when she took time off to get a mammogram.

The suit is one of several statewide that the CSEA has taken on as public employees were included in 2007 state legislation encouraging people to get screened for breast and prostate cancer.

The law was originally passed five years ago to allow state employees to seek time off for screenings without infringing upon contracted time off. It was changed last year effective in August to include school district, county and municipal employees around the state allowing them a maximum of four hours excused leave annually to obtain prostate and breast cancer screenings.

Since then, public employees in Saratoga Spring and Erie County contend that they sought early screening and saw their pay docked for the time they took to have the procedures done, according to the CSEA.

"The CSEA has indicated that this is being used as a test case across the state," said Mayor Scott Johnson.

Johnson said the lawsuit was "unfortunate" and "typical" of unfunded state mandates and that the law's language is not clear. The law, he said, just says that you have to allow them the time off. Moran's suit was filed during Johnson's first week in office.

"Basically the intent of the law is to provide public employees paid time off for cancer screening," said Stephen Madarasz, CSEA spokesman. "It is unfortunate that they are choosing to do this in court. We thought the law was pretty clear. We dispute the interpretation that there is ambiguity here."

The CSEA is fighting that interpretation in Erie County courts as well, said Madarasz. Moran's suit is the first in the Capital District and was filed against Johnson, Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins.

CSEA is looking for the courts to ensure the "excused leave" is a paid one and that public employees are extended the same benefits state workers are under the old law, said Madarasz. ""

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