A Capehart Scatchard Blog

New Jersey Supreme Court Upholds Contract Provision Providing Leave To Work Full Time On Association Business

By on February 3, 2021 in Labor & Employment with 0 Comments

On February 3, 2021,the New Jersey Supreme Court in Moshe Rozenblit v. Marcia V. Lyles (A-41/42-19) (083434) unanimously upheld a provision in a Jersey City School District collective negotiations agreement (“CNA”) permitting two teachers employed and compensated by the district to work full-time on business of the Jersey City Education Association (“Association”).

Taxpayers sued contending that the CNA’s release time provisions violated the New Jersey Constitution’s Gift Clause.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the district based upon the district’s right under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-7 to grant “payment of salary in cases of absence not constituting sick leave.”  The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the Board acted beyond the scope of its statutory authority when it paid the salaries and benefits of the two teachers who had been released full-time to work on Association business.

The Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division and affirmed the trial court’s decision.  The Court reasoned that N.J.S.A. 18A:30-7 confers on boards the authority to grant to school employees leaves of absence in addition to and distinct from sick leave.  The Court explained that the State Constitution’s Gift Clause was not violated because the contract provisions serve the paramount public purpose of promoting labor stability in the public sector.   The public purpose is derived from the Employer–Employee Relations Act (EERA), N.J.S.A. 34:13A-2, in which the Legislature indicated that the best interests of the people of the State are serviced by the prevention or prompt settlement of labor disputes. The Court drew a nexus between the public purpose and the duties of the teachers which included facilitating labor-management relations, resolving disagreements, promoting effective communication between teachers and administration, promoting harmonious employer/employee relationships, and helping set and clarify school policies with the administration.  Accordingly, the Court determined that the full-time release provisions do not constitute gifts to the Association in violation of the State Constitution.

In light of the Court’s decision, school districts should be prepared for their unions to advance similar provisions in negotiations.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. is Co-Chair of Capehart Scatchard’s School Law Group and a Shareholder in the Labor and Employment Group. For over 25 years, he has focused his practice in the areas of school law, and labor and employment. He has represented school districts with respect to a variety of education law issues involving students, teachers, school construction and special education issues including questions pertaining to inclusion, least restrictive environment, discipline, behavior management, transition, evaluation, discrete trial instruction, medically fragile students, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Aspergers Syndrome, and equal access to activities and services for disabled individuals. He has also been recognized as one of South Jersey’s Top Attorneys as published by SJ Magazine. Mr. Muccilli is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Washington, DC.

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