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Articles Posted in Labor and Employment Law

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A recent New Jersey employment law decision in the case of In the Matter of Wilfred Guzman,  Rockaway Township Police Department, examined what penalties are available against a Newpolice-hoboken-train-station Jersey civil service law enforcement officer.

Background

Wilfredo Guzman was a police officer with the Rockaway Township Police Department, a civil service jurisdiction.  Guzman was suspended without pay from April 24, 2017, when he was indicted, until June 19, 2019, when he was served with a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action which terminated him.  The termination was triggered by Officer Guzman’s guilty pleas to two counts of second degree official misconduct.  The Township also fined Officer Guzman the equivalent of 1040 hours worth of pay. Guzman appealed the fine to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (“NJOAL”) – New Jersey employment law allows civil service law enforcement officers to skip appeals to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission requesting that the appeal be considered a contested case, and instead file instead directly with the NJOAL.

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Attaining tenure is a milestone for public school employees.  Under New Jersey employment law, tenure carries legal protections against termination or discipline without just cause, and requires formal tenure charges and the right to challenge those charges through a hearing and appeal process.  Thesebully-3233568__340-300x272 protections are extremely valuable.

Much literature has been written about tenure requirements for teachers under New Jersey employment law.  However, New Jersey employment law also provides that other public school employees may obtain tenure protection as well.  The Appellate Division addressed the acquisition of tenure for school board secretaries and administrative assistants in the case of Saylor v. Board of Education of the Town of West New York.

Background

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Police officer discipline has significant ramifications under New Jersey employment law, whether the officer is in a civil service or non-civil service police department.  These extend beyond the ramifications of discipline for other public and private employees in New Jersey.  Thepolice-1714956__340-300x200 Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court recently examined some of these ramifications in its opinion in the case of Gilbert vs. Warren County Prosecutor.

Background

Jefferey C. Gilbert was a police officer with the Mansfield Township Police Department, a non-civil service jurisdiction.  He settled department disciplinary charges arising from alleged misconduct during a DUI investigation.  Gilbert accepted a six day suspension without pay to resolve all the disciplinary action against him, with the provision that the record of the discipline would remain in his personnel file and could be used as evidence if he received future disciplinary charges for the purposes of progressive discipline.

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New Jersey employment law governs the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors.  The classification is important and fact sensitive.  It has far reaching consequences.  The Appellate Division recently issued a published opinion in imagesCAWQ89PSthe case of East Bay Drywall, LLC vs. the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which examined some of these issues and provides guidance for both employers and employees.

Background

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development administers the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation and Temporary Disability Insurance Laws. It collects revenues from employers and employees to fund these benefits.  However, “employers” only need to make contributions for their “employees,” not for independent contractors.  Therefore, there is an economic incentive for businesses to classify workers as contractors rather than employees.  However, misclassification can trigger severe consequences.

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Some important New Jersey employment law issues were explored in a recent opinion issued by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court concerning the Newsupreme-administrative-court-3565618_960_720-300x200 Jersey Law Against Discrimination in the case of Kazaba versus Randolph Township Board of Education.

The Kazaba Case

Charles Kazaba sued the Randolph Township Board of Education for age discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination in Law Division of the State Superior Court  for allegedly taking discriminatory actions against him because of his age. He was a security for the Board for more than 21 years and had no disciplinary record.  For many years Kazaba was the only security guard, but at some point the Board hired additional, younger security guards with prior law enforcement experience (these were referred to as the “Ram Guards” after the high school’s mascot).  At sixty years of age he was the oldest security guard.  He claimed that his supervisors took a course of or actions favoring the younger Ram Guards and making his job more difficult because he was older.

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A frequent problem in New Jersey employment law occurs when a business offers someone a job without a contract, that person then quits their current employment, the business rescinds the offer, and the employee is left without a job.  There is no contract, so the employee cannot sue for breach of contract.  What can she do?  In an important New Jersey employment law decision, the State Supreme Court ruled in the case of Goldfarb v. Solimine that the employeesignature-3113182__340-300x200 has a viable claim for promissory estoppel and may recover “reliance damages” from the prospective employer based on what she would have made had she not quit in reliance on the promise and stayed at her prior job.  Promissory estoppel is a legal doctrine which provides that a party should be responsible for the consequences when a promisee relied on its promise and suffers damages when the promisor fails to perform.

Background

David Solimine offered Jed Goldfarb a job managing his family’s investment portfolio.  Goldfarb would receive an annual salary of $250,000-$275,000, plus ten to twenty percent of profits made because of his efforts or advice.  Neither the offer nor a contract were ever put in writing.  However, Goldfarb left his current job as a financial analyst (where he had made between $308,000 and $466,000 per year) in reliance on Solomine’s promise of employment.  After Goldfarb quit, Solimine withdrew the offer and Goldfarb found himself unemployed.

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On March 9, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an important employment law decision on pregnancy discrimination in the case of Delanoy v. Township of Ocean, which confirms the distinct causes of actions that may be brought and how they should be brought under the New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“NJPWFA”).

Background

A female police officer for the Township of Ocean brought a pregnancy discrimination case against the Township based on standing operating proceduresdepositphotos_4730220-Happy-pregnancy-thumb-210x315-81786 (“SPOs”) and the Township’s treatment, which she alleged discriminated against her in violation of the NJPWFA and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”).

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A Federal Appeals Court’s recent precedential decision in the case of Gibbs v. City of Pittsburgh may have profound implications for New Jersey civil service appeals from psychological disqualification of law enforcement officer applicants.

Background

Christopher Gibbs applied to be a police officer with the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Police Department.  He was an honorably discharged Marine and had been accepted for employment with five other law enforcement agencies.  Similar to the practice in New Jersey and as required by Pennsylvania state law,  after he was found otherwise qualified Pittsburgh offered Gibbs an offer of employment conditioned upon passing an examination to determine whether he wascop psychologically fit for the job.  Gibbs had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”).  The examining doctor found him unfit because of his ADHD.  The psychologists conducting the examination ignored the fact that Gibbs’s ADHD was under control, that five other departments had found him psychologically fit, that he had unblemished records as a police officer and a Marine, and they never explained how Gibbs’s ADHD would interfere with his ability to perform his duties as a police officer.

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In February of 2021, Governor Murphy finally signed the long awaited “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act” which legalizes recreational, adult (at least 21 years old) use of marijuana (or “cannabis”).

One of the major concerns which has existed since the very beginnings of this Act was how it was going to effect drug testing in the workplace and what job protections might need to be created in relation to employees’ marijuana use.  The Act does address job protections.  However, while several sections of the Actphoto__1894482_mclaughlin_nardi_4712 came into effect immediately, the employment-related provisions are not expected to take effect until the newly-created Cannabis Regulatory Commission establishes regulations providing specific procedures and rules for generally practices in compliance with the Act.  That Commission is supposed to do so within 180 days of the passing of the Act, bringing us to approximately August 21, 2021 before marijuana job protections will come into effect.

The Marijuana Act specifically prohibits employers from refusing to hire, firing, or taking some other adverse action against someone specifically because that person uses marijuana recreationally. Indeed, an employer cannot discriminate against an individual in compensation or in any terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based upon marijuana use outside of the workplace. Thus, marijuana use appears to have the same protections as other protected classifications such as race and gender discrimination.  Again, we will have to see how the Committee addresses this to see what the specific rules will be.

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Under New Jersey employment law, a school board must bring tenure charges when it wants to discipline a tenured teacher.  The teacher can then appeal the tenure charges to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education.  The Department of Education then refers the case to an arbitrator for determination of whether or not the charges should be sustained.  New Jersey’s Appellate Division recently examined the procedures for appealing such a tenure arbitration decision in the case of Ragland v. Board of Education of the City of Newark.

Background

Larhonda Ragland was a tenured teacher in the Newark Public School System.  She received consecutive summative evaluations of “ineffective” or “partially ineffective” based on poor student achievement and classroom observations.  The Board therefore served her with tenure charges of inefficiency.  She challenged the Board’s evaluation process, and the Department of Education the referred the charges to an arbitrator.

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