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Bovaird v. New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

September 30, 2014

William Bovaird
v.
New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services

Argued June 26, 2014.

Page 1208

Merrimack.

Law Offices of Shawn J. Sullivan, PLLC, of Concord ( Shawn J. Sullivan, on the brief and orally), for the petitioner.

Joseph A. Foster, attorney general ( Richard W. Head, associate attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.

DALIANIS, C.J. HICKS, LYNN, and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.

OPINION

Page 1209

Dalianis, C.J.

The New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services (the Department) appeals an order of the Superior Court ( Smukler, J.) granting the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by the petitioner, William Bovaird, and denying the Department's motion. We reverse.

The record establishes the following facts. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) employed the petitioner as an Operations Officer I, Labor Grade 20, until it laid him off on October 29, 2009.

The Department then placed the petitioner on its statewide reduction in force list (RIF List). At the time, Chapter 144:65, Laws 2009 (the 2009 Law) governed the rehiring of laid-off state employees. The Department used the RIF List to place qualified laid-off employees into state positions as they became vacant. The Department asserts that, since 1990, it has not interpreted the 2009 Law, or any of its predecessors, to allow a laid-off employee to be rehired into a promotion. The petitioner does not dispute this assertion on appeal.

After the petitioner was laid off, a Supervisor III, Labor Grade 23 position became available. According to the Department, no laid-off employees on the RIF List were eligible for the Supervisor III position; therefore, the Department released the position back to DHHS to be filled by an open-recruitment process. The petitioner applied for, and was eventually hired to fill, the Supervisor III position. He started working in that position on January 25, 2010. In August 2012, the petitioner requested that the Department restore his previously accumulated and unused sick leave, his prior seniority date, and his leave accrual rates, and that it reinstate his longevity pay.

The Department denied the petitioner's request. The petitioner then filed a petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in superior court. He sought an injunction requiring the Department to recognize him as a " recalled employee," rather than a new hire, and to award him his requested benefits. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

[166 N.H. 758] The trial court first determined that the petitioner was a laid-off employee, and, thus, subject to the terms of the 2009 Law. See Laws 2009, 144:65. According to the trial court, the 2009 Law was " clear and unambiguous" and " required" the Department to place the petitioner into the open Supervisor III position since he met the position's minimum qualifications. The trial court also noted that there was " no limitation [in the 2009 Law] precluding promotions." The court determined that, as an employee required to be rehired into a promotion from the RIF List, the petitioner was also entitled to the benefits he sought pursuant to the applicable personnel rules. See N.H. Admin. Rules, Per 1101.06. Therefore, the court granted the petitioner's motion for summary judgment and denied the Department's motion. This appeal followed.

" In reviewing the trial court's rulings on cross-motions for summary judgment, we consider the evidence in the light most ...


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