Crematory Gets Zoned Out: Oakwood Cemetery Introduction

In New York State, nearly one third of deaths are now followed by cremation. In fact, the number of cremations per year is fast approaching, and may soon exceed, the number of ground burials. Recognizing this trend and aware of the growing number of internments of cremated remains, cemeteries, including those facing financial pressure, may consider building crematoriums on cemetery land. While this may make a great deal of sense for the cemetery, neighboring residents and the local zoning board may pose a potential hurdle to such plans. Such a situation will be the focus of the next several cemetery law posts, as we look at a case where the attempt to build such a facility was thwarted by a decision upholding a zoning ordinance specifically excluding cremation facilities from the definition of a “cemetery.”  The case, from the Supreme Court in Westchester County, is Oakwood Cemetery v. Village of Mount Kisco, No. 15498-11. We also plan to examine the subsequent appeal and discuss the implications of the decision.

Check back soon for more on this issue.

Does Your Cemetery Need an Employee Handbook?

While your relationship with many of your employees may be covered by a collective bargaining agreement, your cemetery could benefit from a handbook for your non-union employees. There is no law that requires an employee handbook. However, it can provide your cemetery with substantial benefits. It lets management inform employees about workplace rules in a uniform manner. A handbook can provide for an at-will policy and provide a valuable defense against a breach of contract claim. Handbooks also can provide a handy place for various policies that should be in writing, such as policies on vacation, family and medical leave smoking and drug testing. In addition, in the absence of policies in a handbook, past and present activities can become policies and provide fodder for among other things, discrimination lawsuits.

While a comprehensive explanation of the advantages of an employee handbook is beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say that the benefits of having a handbook far outweigh any detriment.

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