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Court Upholds Withholding of Teacher’s Increment

By on June 21, 2016 in Labor & Employment with 0 Comments

Advancements on the salary guide and annual increments for teachers must be earned – they are not automatic. In a recent opinion issued on May 20, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Evelyn J. Marose affirmed the Jersey City Board of Education’s decision to withhold teacher John Baran’s salary increment for the 2013-2014 school year. In Baran v. Board of Education of the City of Jersey City, OAL Dkt. No. EDU 14772-14, 2016 N.J. AGEN LEXIS 351 (2016), ALJ Marose held that the decision to withhold Baran’s increment was consistent with the school laws and was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.

Baran was employed as a teacher by the Board since approximately 2006. The evidence showed that during the year in question, Baran was absent twenty-three days and late on one occasion.  He exceeded his yearly absentee allotment by seven days. Moreover, Baran’s supervisor reported performance issues, such as lack of positive instruction taking place in the classroom, lack of engagement with students, and lack of classroom management.  ALJ Marose rejected Baran’s argument that his absences were due to a medical need, as the evidence did not demonstrate that he requested or was in need of such a leave. Regarding performance concerns, ALJ Marose rejected Baran’s position that the school district failed to provide sufficient teaching support and discipline to improve his poor performance.

Based on these circumstances, Baran did not sustain his burden of proof to establish that the Board acted arbitrarily without a rational basis when Baran’s increment was withheld. A board of education’s determination to withhold a salary increment is a managerial prerogative and is presumptively valid, absent an improper motive. Baran failed to set forth clear and convincing evidence that the Board’s decision to withhold his increment for the 2013-2014 school year for attendance and performance reasons was irrational, arbitrary, or unreasonable.

This case is a reminder that salary increments are not entitlements, and teachers must earn them each year. Boards of education and charter schools maintain the managerial prerogative to withhold an increment so long as the decision is rational and supported by reliable evidence.

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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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