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Outland v. Monmouth-Ocean Educ. Service Com'n

December 5, 1996

MONA J. OUTLAND, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
MONMOUTH-OCEAN EDUCATION SERVICE COMMISSION, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



On Appeal from the State of New Jersey, Department of Labor, Division of Workers' Compensation.

Approved for Publication December 9, 1996.

Before Judges Long, Skillman and Cuff. The opinion of the court was delivered by Long, P.j.a.d.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Long

The opinion of the court was delivered by

LONG, P.J.A.D.

The issue presented on this appeal is whether a teacher who is temporarily disabled as a result of an injury arising out of and in the course of her employment, who has received her full annual salary and whose duties have ended with the close of the school year, is entitled to additional temporary disability benefits for the summer recess period. Our review of this record and applicable legal principles leads us to conclude that the answer is no.

The facts of the case are essentially uncontroverted. On April 22, 1994, petitioner, Mona Outland, a teacher of emotionally disturbedchildren employed by the Monmouth-Ocean Education Service Commission (Monmouth-Ocean), was assaulted by a student. As a result, she sustained injuries and was absent from her teaching position from April 23, 1994, to June 30, 1994, the end of the school year. There is no dispute between the parties regarding the compensable nature of these work-related injuries. At the time of this incident, Outland was employed by Monmouth-Ocean under a renewable ten-month contract (September 1 to June 30) pursuant to which she was compensated at a weekly rate of $593. For the period of her disability from April 22, 1994 until June 30, 1994 (the end of her contract year), she was paid her full salary through a combination of workers compensation benefits under N.J.S.A. 34:15-12 and teacher supplemental salary benefits under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1.

On August 1, 1994, Outland filed a notice of motion for temporary disability benefits for the summer recess period. Monmouth-Ocean opposed the motion on the ground that Outland had been paid her full year's salary as of June 30, 1994 and therefore was not entitled to additional benefits over the summer. The compensation Judge ruled in favor of Outland based on a recent decision of this court, Porter v. Elizabeth Bd. of Educ., 281 N.J. Super. 13, 656 A.2d 443 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 142 N.J. 455 (1995) in which a teacher in the same situation as Outland was granted temporary disability benefits. The compensation Judge ordered that Outland receive temporary disability payments totalling $3,675.71 for the period from July 1, 1994 to August 31, 1994. This figure is 70% of Outland's $593 weekly contract wage ($415) times the number of weeks in the summer recess. The effect of this award was that Outland received $3,675.71 more than her employment contract with Monmouth-Ocean provided. Monmouth-Ocean appeals.

Two legislative enactments underpin our inquiry - the Workers' Compensation Act, N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -142, and the sick leave chapter of the education title, N.J.S.A. 18A:30-1 to -6. The Workers' Compensation Act is "humane social legislation designed to place the cost of work-connected injury on the employer who may readily provide for it as an operating expense." Hornyak v. The Great Atl. & Pac. Tea Co., 63 N.J. 99, 305 A.2d 65, 10 1( 1973). For an injury to be compensable under workers' compensation, it must arise out of and in the course of the workers' employment. Spindler v. Universal Chain Corp., 11 N.J. 34, 38-39, 93 A.2d 171 (1952) (citing Seiken v. Todd Dry Dock, Inc., 2 N.J. 469, 474, 67 A.2d 131 ( 1949)). A compensable injury which produces a temporary disability entitles the employee to payments calculated at 70% of the worker's weekly "wages" received at the time of the injury. N.J.S.A. 34:15-12(a). "Wages" are "the money rate at which the service rendered is recompensed under the contract of hiring in force at the time of the accident." N.J.S.A. 34:15-37. The purpose of the statute defining wages is to arrive at a realistic estimate of the worker's true weekly wage so that benefits may fairly relate to the loss he or she has suffered. Triano v. Carbon Steel Products, 63 N.J. 226, 229, 306 A.2d 437 ( 1973). In contrast to permanent disability benefits, which represent compensation for the employee's physical impairment, temporary disability compensation payments are "keyed to weekly salary....such compensation payments are in lieu of those wages." Young v. Western Elec. Co., Inc., 96 N.J. 220, 226, 475 A.2d 544 (1984). Obviously, no claim for temporary disability benefits can be made where there is no absence from work. Calabria v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 4 N.J. 64, 68, 71 A.2d 550 ( 1950).

N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2 is part of the sick leave chapter of the education title. Sick leave is defined as an employee's absence from his or her post of duty because of personal disability due to illness, injury or contagious disease. N.J.S.A. 18A:30-1. N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1 is a special sick leave provision applicable to cases of work-connected disability:

Whenever any employee, entitled to sick leave under this chapter, is absent from his post of duty as a result of a personal injury caused by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer shall pay to such employee the full salary or wages for the period of such absence for up to one calendar year without having such absence charged to the annual sick leave or the accumulated sick leave provided in sections 18A:30-2 and 18A:30-3. Salary or wage payments provided in this section shall be made for absence during the waiting period and during the period the employee received or was eligible to receive a temporary disability benefit under chapter 15 of Title 34, Labor and Workmen's Compensation of the Revised Statutes. Any amount of salary or wages paid or payable to the employee pursuant to this section shall be reduced by the amount of any workmen's compensation award made for temporary disability.

The purpose of N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2 is to guarantee that a school district employee, who is absent from work due to an injury arising out of and in the course of employment, will receive his or her full salary for periods of absence up to one calendar year without losing annual or accumulated sick leave. This statute is meant to "complement workers' compensation benefits for a strictly limited time period." Theodore v. Dover Bd. of Ed., 183 N.J. Super. 407, 416, 444 A.2d 60 (App. Div. 1982).

The Workers' Compensation Act and N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1 are cognate enactments insofar as they address the issue of compensation of employees for personal injuries sustained in accidents arising out of and in the course of employment. The Workers' Compensation Act is a general scheme which provides all workers, including school employees, whose work connected injuries meet its standards, with the same temporary disability benefits (70% of the workers' weekly wages at the time of the injury). N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1 is a more specific enactment in that it guarantees that school employees will be made whole for a definite period of their work connected disability by providing a leave of absence with full pay. By way of the education statute, school employees receive the difference between temporary workers' compensation benefits and their salaries. Viewed on a continuum, workers' compensation provides the first 70% of an injured workers' lost wages and Title 18A, the remaining 30%. Together, for the first calendar year of absence from work by a school employee injured on the job, these benefits provide 100% of his or her salary. Where a school employee receives both workers' compensation benefits and salary under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1, the workers' compensation benefits are set off against the N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1 entitlement to assure that the employee does not receive more than his or her full salary. A determination as to whether to award benefits under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1, where the issue is whether the injury arose out of and in the course of employment, is ordinarily deferred by the Commissioner of Education until a decision is made by the Division of Workers' Compensation. Tompkins v. Bd. of Ed. of Hamilton, 11 N.J.A.R. 520 (l986). See also, Forgash v. Lower Camden County School, 208 N.J. Super. 461, 467, 506 A.2d 356 (App. Div. 1985).

For some purposes, these acts have been construed in pari materia. Theodore v. Dover Bd. of Ed., (supra) (183 N.J. Super. at 415-16. (The term "accident arising out of or in the course of his employment" as used in N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1 has "precisely the same meaning as it does in the context of the Workers' Compensation Act"). For other purposes, and where there are sufficient differences between specific provisions, we have declined to so interpret them. For example, in Williams v. Board of Education of Deptford Township., 192 N.J. Super. 31, 469 A.2d 58 (App. Div. 1983), aff'd o.b., 98 N.J. 319 (1985), we held that the term "calendar year" in N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2.1 does not mean serial or aggregate absences totalling 365 days regardless of the number of years involved (which is the way we interpreted the Workers' Compensation Act in Colbert v. Consolidated Laundry, 31 N.J. Super. 588, ...


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