On appeal from New Jersey State Board of Education.
Botter, King and McElroy.
[180 NJSuper Page 223] This appeal concerns the meaning of N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2 which provides for paid sick leave for "a minimum of 10 school days in any school year" for various employees of boards of education. The collective bargaining agreement between the parties provided that employees were entitled to ten days sick leave a year without loss of pay, but any employee "whose contract is effective after the beginning of the school year shall be allowed one
day of sick leave for each remaining month of the contract period." The State Board of Education (State Board) upheld the contract provision against the claim that N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2 requires an allowance of ten days of sick leave in any school year for each employee regardless of when the employment began in that year.
Appellants contend that the State Board's decision should be reversed because N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2 by its plain terms requires a minimum of ten sick leave days a year per employee regardless of the length of time in the year that the employee has worked. Appellants contend that the provision in the collective bargaining agreement violates the legislative intent. Thus, appellants contend that an employee who comes on board near the end of the school year must be given the same ten days of sick leave as an employee who has worked the entire school year.
The Dover Education Association (Association) is the majority representative of employees of the Dover Board of Education. It filed a petition on April 9, 1979 to the State Commissioner of Education contending, in the first count, that Louise Moore has been a full-time compensatory education teacher commencing March 1, 1978 and that she worked through June 30, 1978, during which time she used one sick day. In September 1978 she was informed that her sick leave accumulation as of that day was three days. Apparently Louise Moore had been allowed one day a month of sick leave for four months, of which one day was used, leaving a balance of three days. This calculation conformed to Article IV, paragraph A, of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties in effect for the school year of 1978-1979. A grievance was filed challenging the amount of sick leave granted Louise Moore, and the claim was rejected by the Dover Board of Education. The petition to the Commissioner asserted that the contract provision violated the applicable statute. The second count of the petition claimed that a number of other teachers had been denied proper sick leave credit for various years. Annexed to the petition was a list of 22 teachers who were allegedly denied proper sick leave credits during their
initial years of employment. Claims were made for a number of days, ranging from one to seven, for each of these teachers. One of these teachers began employment as far back as March 1965, another in February 1966, and others in various years from 1970 to 1979. Additional credits of three, three and five days of sick leave were claimed for three teachers respectively while on unpaid maternity leave in 1973, 1977 and 1978.
The provisions for sick leave in the collective bargaining agreement were as follows:
1. Sick leave is hereby defined to mean the absence from his or her post of duty, of any person because of personal disability due to illness or injury, or because he or she has been excluded from school by the school district's medical authorities on account of a contagious disease or ...