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silhouette-3299358__340-300x274As previously discussed here, on May 2, 2018, New Jersey’s Governor, Phil Murphy signed into law New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Act (the “Act”).  The Act took effect on October 29, 2018.  The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“NJDOL”) issued proposed regulations to further address the employees’ rights and employers’ obligations under the Act.

Below is a list of several areas where the proposed regulations provided additional guidance to the Act itself:

1. Exempt Employees under the Act.

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creative-signstop-age-discrimination-260nw-520754950-300x215Amazingly, despite the law being clear for many years that age discrimination in employment is illegal, and despite the fact that both research and experience have shown the value of mature workers, age discrimination against older employees continues to be widespread in New Jersey and the country at large.  Both the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination provide strict prohibitions against employers and supervisors discriminating against older employees.

Sometimes, however, the boundaries of these laws are unclear, and guidance from the Courts is required.  On November 6, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued an important decision affecting the rights of state and local government employees under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The Mount Lemmon Fire District Case and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act

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we-566326__340-300x135On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued an important employment law decision in the case of Janus v. American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”). Prior to Janus, the general law was that public sector unions (i.e. unions comprised of governmental employees) could collect fees from employees even when the employee did not want to join the union. The prior law was set in the case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education,a prior United States Supreme Court case from 1977.

In Abood, the Court held that a public employee could still be required to pay union dues to cover collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievances even if they refused to join the union. The employee could only opt out of paying a portion of fees which were used for political purposes. Much of the reasoning for that holding was that public employees would benefit from union activities and thus should have to pay for such activities; however they did not need to pay for ideological or political support which the employee did not support. Being forced to make donations to political candidates through mandatory union dues was found to be a violation of First Amendment rights.

However, the Janus ruling changed that long-followed law. Janus argued that everything a public-sector union does (including bargaining for wages) is inherently political because it involves the use of taxpayer money, and therefore all mandatory union dues protected by the First Amendment. One concern is that this could potentially have a negative effect upon democratic political support where unions are generally very active in supporting candidates.

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autumn-house-3689939__340-300x159Our employment attorneys represent applicants who have been removed from lists of eligibles for Civil Service positions for a variety of reasons including disqualification for failing background check, failing to maintain residency, and psychological and medical disqualification.

When applying for a Civil Service position, one requirement that may get overlooked by a potential applicant is the residency requirements for that position within a specific Civil Service jurisdiction.  All open competitive examination announcements should state the residency requirements for that position and, unless otherwise specified, that these requirements must  be met until the announced closing date and/or as of the date of the appointment.  N.J.A.C. 4A:4-2.11(a).

N.J.A.C. 4A:4-2.11(b) defines residence as a single legal residence.  Factors for determining an individual’s residence for local service have been developed through N.J.A.C. 4A:4-2.11(c) and discussed in cases such as In the Matter of Roslyn L. Lightfoot (MSB, decided January 12, 1993) and In the Matter of James W. Beadling (MSB decided October 4, 2006.)  These factors include:

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disciplinary-1326277__340-300x300New Jersey’s government employees provide a wide range of services without which the public could not survive. These range from law enforcement to firefighting, mass transit, garbage removal, building and maintaining roads, ensuring the safety of buildings, protecting the civil rights of New Jersey’s citizens, protecting the environment, traffic safety, urban planning, parks, agriculture, guarding inmates, the list goes on – in short, they affect virtually every aspect of our lives.

Our employment attorneys regularly represent New Jersey civil servants defending themselves against discipline imposed their governmental employers. This is a brief overview of discipline and appeals procedures under New Jersey’s Civil Service System.

Background

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New Jersey’s Civil Service governs the hiring, promotion, classification and discipline of employees of government the State of New Jersey, and employees of the majority of counties, municipalities and governmental boards and commissions which have chosen to be governed by Civil Service . The Civil Service System is governed by the New Jersey Constitution and New Jersey’s Civil Service Act and the regulations issued by New Jersey’s Civil Service Commission which implement the Civil Service Act.

Constitutional Foundation

New Jersey’s Civil Service System is based on a strong constitutional foundation. Article VII, section I of New Jersey’s Constitution of 1947 provides that:

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Our employment law attorneys represent public employees in all phases of their employer-employee relationship.  We regularly represent civil service employees in appealing the imposition of discipline.  One of the bedrock principles of New Jersey civil service employment law is the concept of “progressive discipline.”

Background

New Jersey has a long history of government employment decisions being made for political reasons – this is, after all, the state of Frank “I Am The Law” Hague.  That is why New Jersey Legislature established the civil service system in 1908 to remove political influence, favoritism, cronyism and nepotism from decision making in the hiring, firing and discipline of New Jersey government employees.  Today, the Civil Service Act and the regulations adopted by the Civil Service govern hiring for employees of the State of New Jersey, twenty of New Jersey’s twenty one counties, and many of its municipalities, boards and commissions.  For the State of New Jersey then, and the local governments which have adopted the civil service system, employee discipline is governed by civil service.

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supreme-administrative-court-3565618_960_720-300x200All state employees, and the majority of state and local employees in New Jersey, are governed by the New Jersey’s civil service laws.  In the case of In the Matter Hendrickson, The New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued a landmark decision on the level of deference given by courts to decisions by administrative law judges in appeals of employer discipline by civil service employees.

Discipline at the Employer Level

New Jersey’s Civil Service Act and the regulations adopted by New Jersey’s Civil Service Commission govern disciplinary procedures in state government, and in the local and county governments which have adopted the civil service system.  When a civil service employee receives discipline, she will be given a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action, known as a PNDA or Civil Service Commission Form 31-A.  He will then be given the opportunity for a hearing by his employer in which he can contest the charges against him, or argue that the level of discipline is too severe.  After the hearing, if the employer decides the employee was guilty of the offense charged and that discipline is warranted it will issue a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action, known as a FNDA or Civil Service Commission Form 31-B.

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confidential-1726367__340-300x300Businesses entering into negotiations with other businesses or persons often need to give the other party confidential information.  For example, a business will need to give a potential buyer information regarding its revenue, expenses, customers, formulas, payroll, vendors, and pricing so that the potential buyer can formulate an offer during the due diligence period.  If the deal falls through the seller will rightly want to ensure that the buyer which backed can’t use this information to compete with it or disclose it to competitors or customers.

Fortunately, New Jersey business law gives such companies two important tools to protect their information: The New Jersey Trade Secrets Act and enforceable confidentiality agreements (also known as non-disclosure agreements, or “NDA’s”).

The New Jersey Trade Secrets Act

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yes-3029367__340-300x158The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently issued an important decision on the law of sexual harassment in the case of Sheri Miransky versus Susquehanna County and Thomas Yadlosky, Jr.  The Third Circuit hears appeals from the Federal District Courts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.  Its decisions are binding on questions of federal law in New Jersey.  The only higher court in the nation is the United States Supreme Court.

The Facts

The facts are long, but generally speaking Sheri Minarsky suffered from years of significant sexual harassment by her supervisor.  She did not complain for several years because she feared retaliation, which the supervisor threatened, and because she saw that upper management knew of his harassment against other employees and did nothing.  Finally after four years she did complain, and her supervisor was fired.