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For the employees of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), hot summer days from 2000 to 2003 lead to bitter complaints thanks to a malfunctioning air conditioner.

Once considered an extravagance, air conditioning is now regarded by some as a "fundamental right" rather than a luxury.  That explains the grievance filed by the DHS employees who, upon learning that "similarly placed employees" had been paid for "heat days," believed they were also entitled to such compensation.

The employees' gripe was not well received by the City, which challenged an arbitrator's determination that each claimant receive "heat day" pay for the three-year period in question.

On review, New York County Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Stallman chose to limit the employees' compensation to those "heat days" that arose in 2000.  According to Justice Stallman, the original outcome was unsupportable because it had not been determined whether the "similarly placed employees" had also been paid for those days in other years.

On appeal, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed and confirmed the arbitrator's full award.  While the appellate court acknowledged that payment for these "heat days" would ultimately prove to be an "unjustified windfall regrettably com[ing] out of the public fisc," such was the price of the City's failure to competently rebut the claimants' evidence during the course of the arbitration process.

Once again, it looks like the City's taxpayers are the ones left reeling from the heat.

For a copy of the Appellate Division's decision Matter of Haynes v. New York City Dept. of Homeless Servs., please click on the following link: