For affirmance -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Sullivan, J.
The Appellate Division of the Superior Court in an opinion reported at 132 N.J. Super. 338 (App. Div. 1975), declared as void and set aside certain supplements to the joint regulations of the President of the Civil Service Commission, the State Treasurer and the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting in the Department of the Treasury (Salary Adjustment Committee) concerning the administration of payments to State employees for unused sick leave. Certification was granted by this Court, 68 N.J. 145 (1975), to consider the contention of the Attorney General that the Appellate Division had erred in its interpretation of the statute involved. We affirm the Appellate Division but do not subscribe fully to the reasoning in its opinion.
In 1973 legislation was enacted (L. 1973, c. 130, N.J.S.A. 11:14-9 et seq.) providing that certain State employees,
upon retirement from a State administered retirement system, would be entitled to receive a lump sum payment as supplemental compensation for each full day of earned and unused accumulated sick leave credited to the particular employee on the effective date of retirement. The Act applies to "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." N.J.S.A. 11:14-9. Employees of named educational institutions are also entitled to the same benefits under N.J.S.A. 11:14-10, subject to terms and conditions set forth therein.
The authority to promulgate rules and regulations implementing the Act was delegated to the President of the Civil Service Commission, the State Treasurer and the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting. N.J.S.A. 11:14-17. These State officials comprise the Salary Adjustment Committee, the appellate herein. Effective July 1, 1973, joint regulations concerning the administration of payments to State employees for unused sick leave were promulgated by the Committee.
On December 10, 1973 the Committee set forth further guidelines implementing the 1973 Act, one of which was a regulation that:
"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."*fn1
This regulation was intended to adjust for the fact that employees in the Department of Education who are not in the classified service receive 22 days of vacation leave each year, whereas most classified employees receive substantially
fewer under N.J.S.A. 11:14-1; see N.J.A.C. 14:1-17.11. Also, classified employees are only permitted to carry over unused vacation leave for one year -- N.J.S.A. 11:14-1. There is no similar statutory restriction on employees not in the classified service.
The State Board of Education objected to this regulation and requested that it be reconsidered by the Salary Adjustment Committee. Following negotiations between the Committee and the Commissioner of Education, an agreement was reached whereby the Committee rescinded the particular regulation and, on January 14, 1974, approved a new lump sum sick leave policy for non-classified employees in the Department of Education so long as they "follow the standard * * * method for use, earning and accumulating of sick leave and vacation leave." On the same date the Department of Education issued its directive implementing the new policy and placing its unclassified employees on the same vacation and sick leave schedule as classified employees.
Appeal to the Appellate Division was taken from both actions by respondent Professional Association, State Department of Education, which represents professional employees of the Department. Joining in the appeal were the individual respondents who hold unclassified positions in the Department of Education ...