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Brooklyn police discipline defense attorney

In New York, state law NYCL CVR Section 50-a prohibits the release of the personnel records of certain occupations, including corrections officers, firefighters, and EMTs. However, police officers are the occupation most commonly associated with this law, and information about certain types of police disciplinary actions is not disclosable to the public or the media. 

By blocking public disclosure of these records, Section 50-a protects police officers from retaliation by criminals and prevents defense attorneys from using a police officer’s disciplinary record to discredit their testimony in a criminal trial. This law also protects police officers from being publicly vilified on the basis of unverified or unsubstantiated accusations or because of disciplinary actions that are unrelated to the cases they are involved in.

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New York City employment law attorney labor unionsIf you are a government employee covered by a union collective-bargaining agreement, such as a police officer or school teacher, you cannot be forced by law to join a union and pay union dues. Until recently, however, non-members could be required by New York state law, and by similar laws in 21 other states, to pay a significant percentage of the annual union dues in the form of “agency fees.” The reasoning was that non-members benefited from the union’s collective bargaining efforts and should contribute toward those costs.

The legality of mandatory agency fees was challenged in federal court in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. Mark Janus is an employee of the state of Illinois who chose not to join the AFSCME because he opposes many of the union’s political positions. Nonetheless, he had been required to pay $535 per year to the union as an agency fee, which is about 78 percent of the annual dues paid by union members.  

Agency Fees Deprive Employees of the Right to Free Speech

In its June 2018 decision on the Janus case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require non-union members to pay agency fees. The Court held that the union’s collective bargaining activities and political speech are inextricably linked. Thus, agency fees violate an individual’s First Amendment right to free speech by “compelling them to subsidize [the union’s] private speech on matters of substantial public concern” including “education, child welfare, healthcare, and minority rights.” 

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