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Passaic Township Board of Education v. Passaic Township Education Association

Decided: December 16, 1987.

PASSAIC TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
PASSAIC TOWNSHIP EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Morris County.

O'Brien, Havey and Stern. The opinion of the court was delivered by O'Brien, J.A.D.

O'brien

Defendants appeal from a series of orders of the Chancery Division, restraining an illegal work stoppage or strike by school employees and imposing fines and ordering reimbursement to plaintiff Passaic Township Board of Education (Board) for expenses caused thereby. We now affirm in part and reverse in part.

The Board and defendant Passaic Township Education Association (Association) were engaged in negotiations with regard to salaries and other terms and conditions of employment for unit members for the 1985-86 and 1986-87 school years. On October 10, 1985, in an effort to coerce the bargaining process, the members of the Association decided to engage in a work

stoppage. Commencing on October 10, 1985, teaching and nonteaching personnel failed to report to work.

On the verified complaint of the Board, the Chancery Division entered an order on October 10, 1985, returnable October 16, 1985, which, among other things, included temporary restraints against any strike or work stoppage. Sixty-two individual employees*fn1 were served with a copy of the order. Although the order directed the individual defendants to report for work on Friday, October 11, 1985, the employees did not report for work that day nor on Tuesday, October 15.*fn2

On the Board's application on October 15, 1985, the trial judge found that defendants had deliberately and willfully violated the restraints contained in the order to show cause entered on October 10, 1985, and that immediate, substantial and irreparable harm would result to the Board. He restrained and enjoined defendants from any further strike or work stoppage. The order also provided that each individual employee who failed to report for work at the commencement of the school day on Wednesday, October 16, 1985, be fined $500, and who failed to report for work on any school day after October 16, 1985, be fined two days gross pay for each and every such day of absence. The order directed the Association to distribute a letter urging its members to return to work.

Notwithstanding notice to the employees of the two court orders directing them to return to work, they failed to report to work on October 16 and October 17. On October 17, 1985, the Association and Board entered into a memorandum of agreement

which ended the job action, and the employees returned to work on Monday, October 21, 1985.

The employees were not paid for the five days of the strike, October 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 because they failed to perform their contractual duties. By order of January 21, 1986, the trial judge denied defendant's application to be relieved from the court's order and directed the Board to submit a certification itemizing in detail all expenditures related to the strike and resulting litigation. The judge further ruled that any employee not obligated to report to work on October 16, but obligated to work on October 17, be assessed a penalty of $500 for failure to report on October 17; that no credit for withheld wages be applied against the fine, and that any defendant who claimed to be absent due to illness pursue relief through grievance procedures.

On July 10, 1986, the trial judge entered his final order embodying the procedural history and finding that the Board had withheld $39,274.52 for the employees' failure to report for work, together with fines totaling $48,173.49. The judge found that the total allowable expenses to the date of his order were $54,051.29 and provided for the disposition of the balance.*fn3 Subsequent to entry of the final judgment defendants appealed. Briefs have been filed and ...


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