A Capehart Scatchard Blog

A Reminder from the Appellate Division on RIFs and Tenured Employees

By on August 22, 2017 in Labor & Employment with 0 Comments

On August 17, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an unpublished opinion in which it upheld the Atlantic City Board of Education’s (“Board”) decision to change the employment of two supervisors from twelve-month positions to ten-month positions due to a reduction in force (“RIF”). This case highlights an important interplay between RIFs and tenure rights of public school employees.

The Board employed Lourdes Vidal-Turner and C. Dedra Williams (“Petitioners”) as teachers for numerous years. The Board then promoted each of them to a twelve-month supervisory position in which they later acquired tenured. The State Appointed Fiscal Monitor for the Board instituted a RIF effective July 1, 2015 resulting in the elimination of Petitioners’ twelve month positions. The Board reassigned them to ten-month positions. As a result, their salaries were reduced.

In September 2015, Petitioners appealed the Board’s action to the Commissioner of Education (“Commissioner”), which was then transferred to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Petitioners argued before the ALJ that the Board violated their tenure and seniority rights by changing their salaries to 10/12ths of their pre-RIF salaries. Petitioners argued that the Board should have compensated them at the monthly rates of their pre-RIF salaries. The ALJ ruled in favor of the Board, which the Commissioner affirmed in June 2016.

Petitioners then appealed the Commissioner’s decision to the Appellate Division. Petitioners conceded that N.J.S.A. 18A:28-9 authorized the Board to implement a RIF for reasons of economy. Petitioner further acknowledged that the RIF in this case was legitimate. Instead, Petitioners argued that N.J.S.A. 18A:28-5 regarding tenure rights precluded the Board from reducing the compensation of Petitioners below their monthly rate.

The Appellate Division rejected Petitioners’ argument and declined to interpret the tenure statutes as requiring a board of education to compensate a tenured employee who has been RIFed from a twelve-month to a ten-month position at their prorated pre-RIF salary. The Appellate Division concluded that Petitioners’ argument “renders an absurd result because it would limit the ability of the school board to exercise its judgment to allocate resources for reasons of economy.”


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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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