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N.J. Supreme Court Rules Arbitrator Exceeded Authority in Tenure Case

By on March 6, 2017 in Labor & Employment with 1 Comment

On February 21, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Bound Brook Board of Education v. Glenn Ciripompa invalided an arbitrator’s award in a tenure removal case after determining that the arbitrator exceeded his authority when he failed to determine whether a teacher’s actions rose to the level of conduct unbecoming. The arbitrator improperly applied the standard for hostile work environment instead of conduct unbecoming.

Bound Brook Board of Education (“Board”) filed tenure charges against Glenn Ciripompa, a tenured high school math teacher, after an investigation revealed that he was using school district-issued laptops, iPads, and networks to transmit nude photographs and engaged in unprofessional, inappropriate, and potentially harassing conduct toward female staff members. Count I of the Board’s complaint related to Ciripompa’s misuse of school district technology. Count II related to Ciripompa’s conduct against the female employees. Both counts charged Ciripompa with conduct unbecoming and sought his termination.

The arbitrator did not remove Ciripompa from his teaching position, finding that the Board did not prove sexual harassment with regard to Count II of the complaint. Instead, the arbitrator issued a 120-day suspension. On review, the Chancery Division of the Superior Court reversed and remanded the case to a new arbitrator. The Appellate Division vacated and reinstated the suspension.

The New Jersey Supreme Court determined that the arbitrator improperly converted Count II of the complaint alleging unbecoming conduct into a hostile work environment/sexual harassment claim. That is, the tenure charges filed by the Board never alleged sexual harassment, which the arbitrator acknowledged. Rather, the Board’s tenure charges against Ciripompa stated that his conduct toward the female employees rose to the level of conduct unbecoming. As a result, the arbitrator should have analyzed whether Ciripompa’s actions constituted conduct unbecoming, not sexual harassment or hostile work environment. The Court reasoned that an arbitrator cannot decide a legal question not actually placed before him by the parties. To do so, as the arbitrator did in this case, is to exceed his authority.

Ultimately, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division’s decision and remanded the case for arbitration with a new arbitrator to determine whether Ciripompa’s actions toward the female staff members constitutes unbecoming conduct.

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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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There is 1 Brilliant Comment

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  1. Michelle says:

    What happened with this case? Has Glenn Ciripompa lost his job or will he be admitted into the classroom again?

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