A Capehart Scatchard Blog

N.J. Supreme Court Decides Issue on Compensation for Unused Sick Time

On April 20, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an important decision regarding a teacher’s right to compensation for unused sick leave at the time of retirement or separation from a board of education. In Barila v. Board of Education of Cliffside Park, the State’s Supreme Court held that the unambiguous terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the teachers’ union and the board of education dictated the right to sick leave compensation upon retirement and such agreement did not violate a vested right.

The Cliffside Park Education Association (“Association”) is the exclusive collective bargaining representative for all teachers employed by the Cliffside Park Board of Education (“Board”). The Association and the Board entered into a collective negotiations agreement in 2012 (“2012 CNA”). The 2012 CNA stated that compensation for unused sick leave at the time of retirement or separation was capped at $25,000. In 2015, the Association and the Board entered into a new CNA (“2015 CNA”), which lowered the cap on unused sick leave to $15,000. The 2015 CNA did not contain a “grandfather” clause.

The Plaintiffs in this case were teachers who accrued more than $15,000 worth of unused sick time. They sued the Board claiming that they had a vested right to unused sick leave compensation up to the $25,000 cap under the 2012 CNA for various reasons, including because they believed they never consented to the new cap of $15,000.

The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division on this issue and held that the teachers did not have a vested right. As the exclusive representative for the teachers, the Association validly entered into the 2015 CNA with the Board and limited the compensation for unused sick leave to $15,000. A teacher’s right to compensation for unused sick leave only vested when that teacher served the length of time required by the collective bargaining agreement and was retiring or separating from the school district. The 2015 CNA replaced the 2012 CNA, and nothing in the 2012 CNA suggested an additional right to compensation for unused sick leave after the 2012 CNA expired. Therefore, the 2012 CNA did not apply to the teachers, and their right to compensation for sick leave was limited to $15,000 under the 2015 CNA.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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