Under New Jersey employment law, specifically Section 6-14 of Title 18A of New Jersey Statutes, tenured teachers may be suspended on disciplinary charges with or without pay while their tenure charges are pending a determination. However, the statute provides that if an arbitrator has not issued a decision on the charges by the 120th day of the suspension, the board of education is required to pay the suspended teacher beginning on the 121st day until the arbitration decision is issued. If the charges are dismissed at any stage, the teacher will be reinstated with full pay for the entire period of her suspension. If the charges are dismissed and the board of education appeals, and it continues the suspension during the appeal, the teacher must receive full pay during the appeal. If the charges are not dismissed at the arbitration and the employee appeals, she is not entitled to pay while the appeal is pending, but if the appellate court orders her to be reinstated she will then be entitled to her lost pay for the entire suspension. (The board is required to deduct any salary the employee was paid while she was suspended from what the board is required to pay her.)
The Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court, New Jersey’s intermediate appeals court, recently faced a situation not expressly covered by the statute – a situation where a tenured employee is suspended, the arbitrator upholds the termination, the employee appeals, and the appeals court does not order that the employee be reinstated but instead remands the case for a new arbitration hearing. In that case, Pugliese v. State-Operated School District of the City of Newark, two tenured teachers were suspended without pay pending resolution of their disciplinary charges. They contested the charges, and an arbitrator holding a hearing under New Jersey’s TEACHNJ Act of 2012 upheld the charges and ordered the teachers dismissed. The teachers appealed. The Appellate Division reversed the arbitrators’ decisions. However, it did not order reinstatement, but rather remanded the cases for further proceedings. The appeal, filed by the teachers, stretched the suspension well past the 120 day mark. The teachers argued that they should be paid while the proceedings continued, but district refused because it was the employees who appealed and the charges were not dismissed. The Commissioner of Education agreed. The teachers appealed.
The Appellate Division held that even though it was the employees who appealed and the tenure charges were not dismissed, the district had to pay the teachers during their suspension.