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Cumberland County Welfare Board v. Jordan

Decided: December 6, 1963.

THE CUMBERLAND COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, A BODY CORPORATE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GERALDINE M. JORDAN AND DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL SERVICE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester.

Per Curiam

This is an appeal by the Cumberland County Welfare Board from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission, setting aside a purported resignation under Civil Service Rule 60 of Geraldine M. Jordan and returning her to the position of Senior Clerk Bookkeeper of the Welfare Board for the purpose of continuing and completing her working test period.

Mrs. Jordan received a temporary appointment to the position in question on September 25, 1961. Thereafter, the Welfare Board appointed her to a permanent status as Senior Clerk Bookkeeper, effective June 21, 1962, "subject to 3 months working test period as per Civil Service regulations." Following this, she began to have severe pains in her right side and consulted a doctor. He suggested hospitalization for tests. With the approval of Charles Land, Director of the Welfare Board, she took an accrued vacation leave from August 6 to August 21, 1962, during which time she was hospitalized. She then took sick leave with pay from August 22 through September 4, 1962.

Mrs. Jordan returned to work on September 5, 1962, but the pain persisted. On September 20, she took sick leave, again with the approval of Mr. Land, and, on the advice of her physician, Dr. Kleinbart, entered Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia the next day.

While at the hospital and realizing that her sick leave would run out on September 28, 1962, Mrs. Jordan wrote a letter on September 27, 1962 to Frank D'Orio, president of the Welfare Board, requesting a further leave of absence without pay for three months, effective October 1, 1962, because of the condition of her health. She enclosed a letter from Dr. Kleinbart, certifying that she was confined at the hospital

"for treatment for Hyperthyroidism" and that she was "not able to work and perform her duties at this time." Consultations at the hospital resulted in a finding that Mrs. Jordan had a bilateral ovarian cyst. On October 4, 1962, she was operated upon at the hospital, a Dr. Haberman performing a bilateral abdominal oophorectomy. She was discharged from the hospital on October 15, 1962 and returned that day to her home in Vineland, New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the Welfare Board had met on October 12, 1962, considered Mrs. Jordan's request for a three months' leave of absence without pay, and denied it on three grounds, to wit: (1) she was merely a temporary employee and could not be granted a leave under N.J.S.A. 11:24A-6.1; (2) in the board's judgment she should not be employed as a senior clerk bookkeeper because of her hyperthyroidism; and (3) the board did not want to establish a precedent in this area. In determining the meaning of "hyperthyroidism," the Welfare Board did not consult a medical doctor, but sought information from a dentist and found a definition of the word in some medical book, which described it as "an abnormal nervous condition which borders on the psychic."

Upon her arrival home on October 15, Mrs. Jordan immediately phoned Victor LaTorre, a member of the board in charge of employees, and told him she was home. She testified:

"He said there had been discussion at the Board meeting and Mr. Land told him that the Civil Service Commission would not allow a leave of absence unless I had put in three months as a permanent employee and, therefore, the Board had denied the leave."

She also testified that Mr. LaTorre asked her if she had received a letter which Mr. Land had been instructed to send her the previous week, and she told him she "didn't know anything about such a letter or its contents." Upon finishing her conversation with him she called the Board's office about 4:45 P.M. When there was no answer, she called Mr. Land's secretary, Helen Tribbett, at her home. She told

Mrs. Tribbett that she was home, inquired whether a letter had been sent to her, and was told a ...


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