Recovering overpayments of General Municipal Law Section 207-c benefits

Recovering overpayments of General Municipal Law Section 207-c benefits Westchester County v Westchester County Correction Officers Benevolent Assoc., App. Div., Second Dept., 278 AD2d 414 Westchester County initially provided General Municipal Law Section 207-c benefits to three corrections officers. Subsequently it was determined that the injuries suffered by the correction officers were not work-related. When the County attempted to recover the Section 207-c "overpayments" it had made to the officers, the Westchester County Correction Officers Benevolent Association, Inc., [COBA] filed a grievance seeking to arbitrate the County's action and bar the County from commencing any actions to recover disability benefits paid to the officers. The County said that it provided Section 207-c benefits to three correction officers pending the results of hearings scheduled to determine the officers' entitlement to such benefits. The results of the hearings: the three officers had not suffered work-related injuries and, therefore, the three were not eligible for any Section 207-c benefits. In rejecting COBA's demand that the question of recovering the "overpayments" be submitted to arbitration, the Appellate Division said that since the County's authority to make initial determinations of entitlement to Section 207-c benefits was not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining, the County's right to recover benefits it paid to officers who did not suffer a work-related injuries was also not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. Noting that both Section 207-c and the County/COBA collective bargaining agreement are silent as to whether the County may commence an action to recover Section 207-c benefits improperly paid, the court ruled that "the agreement should not be construed so as to expand the officers' rights under the statute." The court also commented that there is a strong public policy in favor of recovering moneys improperly or illegally paid out and "[f]or this reason as well, arbitration is not available."

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