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Professional Association v. Commissioner of Education

Decided: February 7, 1975.

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION, STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, JOSEPH F. KELLY, ROBERT H. ARENTS, GEORGE A. SNOW AND PAUL HILLAIRE, APPELLANTS,
v.
THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION AND THE SALARY ADJUSTMENT COMMITTEE, RESPONDENTS



Michels, Morgan and Kentz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, J.A.D.

Michels

[132 NJSuper Page 340] Plaintiffs appeal from an action taken by the Salary Adjustment Committee (the Committee) on January 14, 1974 which approved lump-sum sick leave payments to unclassified employees in the Department of Education (Department) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 11:14-9 (L. 1973, c. 130, § 1), provided said employees follow the standard method for the use, earning and accumulation of sick leave and vacation leave followed by classified employees, and from an action taken by the Acting Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) the same day which changed the vacation policy for unclassified employees in the Department from 22 vacation days a year to the same vacation schedule applicable to classified employees in the Department. See N.J.S.A. 11:14-1.1 and 1.2; N.J.A.C. 4:1-17.11.

A brief review of the context in which this appeal arises is helpful to its resolution. In 1973 our Legislature passed "An Act concerning supplemental compensation payments for public employees in certain cases" (L. 1973, c. 130, § 1; N.J.S.A. 11:14-9 et seq.). The act, which was approved on May 16, 1973, became effective on July 1, 1973, and provided in § 1 (N.J.S.A. 11:14-9):

Each employee in the classified service of the State and each State employee not in the classified service who has been granted sick leave under terms and conditions similar to classified employees shall be entitled upon retirement from a State-administered retirement system to receive a lump sum payment as supplemental compensation for each full day of earned and unused accumulated sick leave which is credited to him on the effective date of his retirement in the manner prescribed by section 4 of P.L. 1947, c. 201 (C. 11:14-5).

In order to implement the act § 9 (N.J.S.A. 11:14-17) declared that

The President of the Civil Service Commission, the State Treasurer and the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting shall jointly prepare and promulgate rules and regulations to implement this act, including but not limited to the procedure for application for, and payment of, such supplemental compensation and reasonable standards for determining which State employees are eligible for the supplemental compensation payment provided herein.

Pursuant to this grant of administrative power the President of the Civil Service Commission, the State Treasurer and the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting (who comprise the Committee) promulgated Joint Regulations on July 12, 1973 for administering the payment of supplemental compensation for earned and unused sick leave. These Joint Regulations provided, among other things, that "State employees not in the classified service who have been granted sick leave under terms and conditions similar to classified employees" were eligible for supplemental compensation under the act, and established a procedure for determining the eligibility of class titles of state employees not in the classified service. In addition, they established

guidelines by which the eligibility of nonclassified titles for such compensation would be determined, providing in pertinent part:

The eligibility of an employee will be determined by such class title held at any time during his State employment. Eligibility of class title will not be approved by the Salary Adjustment Committee unless the following standards and guidelines have been adhered to:

1. Sick leave days were earned by all employees within that class title on the basis of one working day per month during the remainder of the first calendar year of employment after initial appointment and fifteen working days per calendar year thereafter.

Thereafter, at its meeting of December 10, 1973 the Committee made the following determination with respect to requests for said lump-sum payments:

Any sick leave payment to a non-classified employee in the Department of Education shall take into account as an offset the additional leave authorized for such person during his employment. This is in accordance with the Deputy Attorney General [sic] opinion ...


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