A secretary at City Hall is suing the city because she wasn’t paid when she took time off from work last fall to get a mammogram.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Katherine Moran by the Civil Service Employees Association, which is looking to set precedent for interpretation of a 2007 state law meant to encourage public employees to get screening for breast and prostate cancer.
The law says employees of local governments and school districts are entitled to time off to obtain the screenings without losing vacation or sick time. The issue is whether they also remain on the clock.
“We believe they are entitled to compensation under the law,” said Steven Crain, a CSEA attorney representing Moran.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa. It is tentatively scheduled for a first hearing on March 6. The defendants include the city, Mayor Scott Johnson, Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins.
The state law that took effect in August says employees of local governments are entitled to four hours annually for a mammogram test for breast cancer or for a prostate cancer exam. State workers already had that benefit.
The court must decide whether the law also requires them to be compensated while away from the office to obtain the screening, as state workers are.
“I think the majority of employers are paying, but there are some out there that are not,” Crain said.
CSEA has already filed a similar lawsuit in Erie County, and it will sue other local government employers if necessary, Crain said.
“We think it’s important. It affects many, many people,” Crain said.
Moran, an employee of the city accounts office who is also president of the CSEA local in City Hall, said she’s not the first woman to have her pay withheld while she was having a mammogram.
“There have been others, and I’m really filing on behalf of everybody,” Moran said Friday. “I happen to have all the documentation and everything’s in order.”
Mayor Johnson, responding on behalf of the city, said the docking of one hour of Moran’s pay occurred last fall, before he took office Jan. 1.
He said there’s currently no formal city policy on whether to pay employees while they’re receiving medical screenings, but one is now being developed. He declined to say how the new policy would address the issue.
“We’ve evaluating to see what steps can be taken to remedy the problem,” Johnson said.
Crain, who works at CSEA state headquarters in Albany, said he’s unaware of any similar cases involving men who lost pay when they took time off for prostate cancer screening.
Crain said the proper interpretation of the state law is an issue that may eventually have to be settled by appeals court, possibly the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.