Articles Posted in Labor and Employment

Published on:

The Civil Service Commission

The New Jersey Civil Service System is governed by the Civil Service Act and Civil Service Regulations.  Chapter 2 of Title 11A of the Civil Service Act, N.J.S.A. 11A:2-1, et seq., establishes the  New Jersey Civil Service Commission (thestone-judge-778488-m-thumb-240x320-71245-thumb-220x293-71246-thumb-220x293-71247 “Commission”).   The Commission is a department of the executive branch of the New Jersey State Government.  Administratively it is part of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Nonetheless, it operates as an independent agency.  It is free from control of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Commission has five members.  Three members are required for a forum.  This has led to a backlog of cases when less than three have been appointed.

Published on:

Some complain that civil service hinders efficient government.  Managers object that it limits their ability to run their organizations by hiring, firing and imposing discipline as they believe best.  Citizens argue it makes it too hard to get rid of “bad apples.”  Employees believe it makes promotions and transfers too difficult.  Applicants think the system makes it too hard to get hired.  All these criticisms are valid, to a point. megaphone-1480342__340-300x200 However, they miss the mark because they focus on the trees but miss the forest.  Life is a series of tradeoffs; every decision is a cost/benefit analysis.

New Jersey’s Civil Service System was adopted to combat grave problems with state and local government.  New Jersey has a long history of government corruption; it is by no means a new phenomenon.  This history includes a “spoils system” which gave election winners the power to award jobs to their supporters, bribery, favoritism, nepotism, cronyism and discrimination in hiring and keeping government jobs.  It was a disgrace.  New Jersey was – and is – hardly alone in these problems, but New Jersey took it to another level. Without civil service these problems would continue unchecked.  It’s not perfect, but New Jersey is a far better place because of civil service.

In 1908, the early Twentieth Century Progressive Movement led New Jersey to adopt its first civil service laws, and to establish the Civil Service Commission to regulate civil service practices.  Then, in 1947, a constitutional convention was held at Rutgers University, in which a new Constitution was adopted.  The goal of the constitutional convention was to reform many areas of New Jersey’s state and local government.  Article VII, section 1 of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947 provided that:

Published on:

In an important New Jersey employment law ruling, the State Supreme Court held that an employer’s decision to terminate or otherwise take action against an employee influenced by the discriminatory bias of a subordinate, rather than the decisionmakers themselves, nonethelessgavel-300x200 violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Background: Meade’s Employment

In the case of Michele Meade vs. the Township of Livingston, the Court explained that Michele Meade was the Township Manger for Livingston Township from 2015 until she was terminated by the Township Council in 2016.  She was the first female Township Manager in Livingston’s history.  She was replaced by a male candidate although there were female candidates, and when her replacement quit he was replaced by another male candidate.

Published on:

The Increase

New Jersey’s minimum wage rate is going up again.  The new minimum wage rate during this incremental increase is $13 per hour effective January 1, 2022.stock-photo-20612112-woman-leading-business-team

Background

Published on:

Government employees receive significant due process rights to challenge employer discipline which private sector employees and employees in non-civil service jurisdictions do not enjoy.  However, because New Jersey employment law recognizes the great responsibility placed onhttps://www.newjerseylawyersblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/195/2018/07/police-officer-sil.-300x254.png law enforcement officers, the Legislature has enacted robust procedures for police officers not covered by civil service to appeal discipline to the Superior Court.  Nonetheless, in the case of Miller vs. Borough of Berlin Police, the Appellate Division reminds us that the burden of proof remains on the officer and evidence is king.

Background

Jason Miller was a police officer with the Borough of Berlin Police Department, a non-civil service jurisdiction.  He was dispatched to a banquet hall because of a report of the theft of a purse.  Surveillance video showed an employee taking the purse, the manager gave Officer Miller the employee’s name and address, and Miller took a victim statement.  Miller told the victim that the employee was clearly identifiable and would be charged with a crime (as the victim told him she wished), and that the case was a “slam dunk.”  However, Miller did not follow up or press charges, and stated in the incident report that the victim did not wish to pursue criminal charges.  Several days later the victim called the Department to follow up.  Another officer took the call, and eventually other officers arrested the employee, who confessed.

Published on:

The Appellate Division recently issued an employment law decision in the case of Matter of City of Newark and Newark Police Superior Officers’ Association, et al., concerning the ability of public employee unions to challenge the City of Newark’s COVID-19 vaccinationus-supreme-court-300x200 requirement.  The Court expressly held that the City has the right to require these vaccines as a requirement of continued employment.  Moreover, it held that not only does it have that right, but it has no concurrent duty to negotiate with unions over the requirement.

Although this case was decided in the context of whether the vaccine requirement was a matter which needed to be negotiated between the City and its law enforcement employee unions, it appears to slam the door on objections by public employees to employer COVID vaccine mandates, and it probably shuts the door for private sector employees to make that argument as well.

The Appellate Division explained: “When a public health emergency exists, governmental entities, including local authorities, have a recognized right to require vaccinations.”  The Appellate Division explained that this right exists even in the absence of a statute giving the City that authority.

Published on:

In an important New Jersey employment law decision, the Appellate Division of the State Superior Court examined exceptions to the 90 day limit for challenging a board of education’s decision regarding a teacher’s tenure status.  In that case, Frayne v. Board of Education of the Borough of Highland Park, the Appellate Division demonstrated that the limitation period is a “hard” deadline, and missing it will likelycolumns-round-300x201 mean the teacher’s appeal will be rejected.

Background

Deana Frayne was a non-tenure track maternity leave replacement teacher for the Highland Park Board of Education from the 2008-2009 though 2011-2012 school years; thereafter she was employed as a full-time, tenure track teacher.  She signed her fourth contract as a tenure track first grade teacher for the 2015-2016 school year on May 15, 2015.   However, on June 25, 2015, she was served with a letter advising that the Board believed that she did not have tenure and that her employment would be terminated effective August 23, 2015 based on performance, behavior and attendance.  The Board offered her an agreement ending her tenure track employment, giving her sixty days health benefits and salary in exchange for a release.  She did not sign.  She then received a Rice Notice, and on August 23, 2015, the Board voted unanimously to terminate Frayne’s employment.

Published on:

The Appellate Division recently issued a decision exploring the limits of progressive discipline in New Jersey civil service discipline in thepolice-officer-829628_640-300x199 case of Matter of Collins.

Background

Darius Collins was a senior corrections officer at Norther State Prison.  He had been a corrections officer for more than two years and had no prior discipline.  On January 6, 2019, he was the patrolling supervisor of prisoners in a high security unit.  Collins admitted that he left a gate between two floors open.  This allowed two prisoners to leave their tier to take unauthorized showers.  When they got back the contents of their cells had been destroyed.  The prisoners then became out of control and a ten man extraction team was required to get the two inmates back under control.

Published on:

Background: Disability Discrimination and the Requirement of Reasonable Accommodation

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination bars employers from discriminating against employee’s because of a disability, provided they can perform the job with “reasonable accommodation.”  Because no two employees or workplaces are the same, no accommodations will be the same for two employees, or reasonable for different employers.  Thus, the regulations interpreting this requirement in the Law Againstwheelchair-1595794__340-300x200 Discrimination require that employers must engage in an “interactive process” with a disabled employee to explore whether there are accommodations which the employer could implement to assist her in performing her duties without imposing an undue hardship on the employer.

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently explored these issues in the case of Richter vs. Oakland Board of Education.

Published on:

The State Supreme Court recently issued an important decision concerning New Jersey employment law.  In the case of Pritchett v. State, the Court confirmed that punitive damages are available against public employers under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination andjustice-2060093_960_720-300x200 whistleblower protection laws, and defined the heightened standard under which trial judges must review such awards.

Background

Shelly Pritchett was a New Jersey State corrections officer.  She suffered injuries breaking up a fight between two inmates.  She received medical treatment and went on workers compensation leave.  She recovered from the injuries, but during her treatment it was discovered that she might be in the early stages of multiple sclerosis (MS).  She requested unpaid leave.  Her captain wanted to deny the leave, but was advised by human resources, her supervisor and the facility’s deputy executive director of operations that the leave should be approved.  While the captain remained adamantly against it, the leave was approved.  However, Pritchett was told that no further extensions would be granted.

Contact Information