Plaintiff Maywood Education Association (association) is the representative of the professional nonsupervisory employees of defendant Maywood Board of Education. The association and the board entered into a collective negotiation agreement for the year ending June 30, 1974. The agreement provides for the payment of retirement compensation to members of the association in accordance with the board's "Policies and Bylaws" adopted on February 20, 1973. The board's policy on retirement compensation reads as follows:
The Maywood Board of Education wishes to acknowledge the tenure and service of its personnel who have served the Maywood School District for twenty (20) years or more.
The Maywood Board of Education will award a longevity increment to the last yearly salary to personnel retiring under the rules and regulations of the New Jersey Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund or the Public Employees Retirement System of New Jersey. The formula for determining the increment shall be five (5) per cent of the unused portion of accumulated sick leave days, as of September 1 of the last school year of employment, times the daily rate of pay established by the existing guide at the time of retirement, and providing twenty (20) years or more of service has been in the Maywood School System.
To qualify for the longevity increment, personnel must submit written notification to the Superintendent of Schools on or before December 1 of their intention to retire the following school year.
Plaintiffs Stricker and Van Saders are members of the association who retired during the term of the agreement. Each had served more than 20 years in the Maywood school system and requested retirement compensation in accordance with the terms of the agreement between the board and the association. Stricker had accumulated 144.5 unused sick leave days, and the retirement compensation due to her under the formula is $536.69. In the case of Van Saders, she had accumulated 187 unused sick leave days and her retirement compensation amounts to $705.87.
The board of education notified the association that it would not pay retirement compensation to Stricker and Van Saders on the ground that the provisions of the agreement requiring such payment were "illegal and unenforceable." The association and the individual plaintiffs instituted this action for a declaration and enforcement of their rights under the agreement.
The board's position is that the provisions of the agreement for the payment of retirement compensation are in conflict with N.J.S.A. 18A:30-1 et seq. which, it is said, prohibit any payment by the board for unused sick leave. The cited sections of the Education Law provide generally for a minimum allowance of ten days sick leave in each school year for employees of a school district (N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2), the accumulation of unused sick leave (N.J.S.A. 18A:30-3), the discretionary recognition of accumulated sick leave when an employee transfers to a different school district (N.J.S.A. 18A:30-3.2), the enforcement of employees' sick leave rights by the Commissioner of Education (N.J.S.A. 18A:30-5), and authorization to boards of education to grant sick leave in excess of the statutory minimum (N.J.S.A. 18A:30-7).
None of the foregoing sections of Title 18A expressly prohibits payment by a board of education for unused sick leave. The statutory scheme spells out the minimum standards for sick leave applicable to all school boards and vests in the individual board discretion to exceed the prescribed
minimums. The only statutory limitation on sick leave for school employees is that an employee may not accumulate more than 15 days a year for future use (N.J.S.A. 18A:30-7).
But the board urges that the absence of express authority to pay employees for unused sick leave should be interpreted as an implied prohibition against such payments. The argument is premised upon the fact that with respect to certain state employees the Legislature has expressly sanctioned payment for unused sick leave. See N.J.S.A. 11:14-9. The doctrine of expressio unius est exclusio ...