Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. American Federation of State

July 14, 1997

IN THE MATTER OF NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY, APPELLANT-RESPONDENT,
v.
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, COUNCIL 73, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT. NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY, APPELLANT-RESPONDENT V. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, COUNCIL 73, LOCALS 3912, 3913 AND 3914, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS.



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 289 N.J. Super. 23 (1996).

The opinion of the Court was delivered by Stein, J. Chief Justice Poritz and Justices Handler, O'hern, Garibaldi and Coleman join in Justice Stein's opinion. Justice Pollock did not participate.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stein

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

IMO New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 73, 150 N.J. 331, 696 A.2d 585 (1996).

Argued March 18, 1997 -- Decided July 14, 1997

STEIN, J., writing for a unanimous Court.

In this appeal, the Court considers whether certain New Jersey Turnpike Authority (Authority) employees can join collective negotiating units.

The New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act (Act) provides public employees with broad power to form, join and assist employee organizations, with two exceptions: managerial executives and confidential employees are not permitted to join employee organizations. Managerial executives are those who formulate management policies and practices, and persons who are responsible for directing the effectuation of those management policies and practices. Confidential employees possess functional responsibilities or knowledge in connection with issues involved in the collective negotiations process that would make their membership in a negotiating unit incompatible with their official duties.

In June 1991, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) petitioned the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), the body charged with enforcing and implementing the Act, to represent eighty-eight Authority employees in a supervisory unit. The Authority opposed the petition, claiming that all of the petitioned-for titles were inappropriate for inclusion in a collective negotiating unit because they were managerial executives or confidential employees, because supervisory conflicts existed between the titles, and also because the titles subject to the petition included non-supervisory personnel who should not be represented in a supervisory unit.

PERC referred the matter to a hearing officer for fact finding and recommendation. The hearing officer recommended that all but fourteen of the petitioned-for titles be certified. The Authority filed exceptions to the report and recommendation of the hearing officer. PERC transferred the matter to itself and issued a modified decision. PERC accepted the hearing officer's exclusion of the fourteen employees from the negotiation unit. In order to prevent intra-unit conflicts, PERC excluded five non-supervisors from the unit, as well as twenty employees who supervised lower-level supervisors in the unit. For the balance of the petitioned-for employees, PERC generally rejected the Authority's claim that the affected employees were either managerial executives or confidential employees.

In addressing the Authority's claims concerning managerial executive status, PERC relied on its interpretation of the statutory language and on its decision in Borough of Montvale, wherein it determined that to be considered a managerial executive, the affected employee must exercise a level of authority and independent judgment sufficient to broadly affect the Authority's purposes or means of effectuating these purposes. Concerning confidential employees, PERC reiterated its holding in State of New Jersey.

PERC certified the balance of the petitioned-for employees for membership in three separate negotiating units. The Authority appealed all three certifications, claiming that the certified employees should have been excluded because they were either managerial executives or confidential employees or because public policy required their exclusion. The Appellate Division reversed and remanded, concluding that PERC construed both the managerial executive and confidential employee exceptions too narrowly.

The Supreme Court granted petitions for certification filed by PERC and AFSCME. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO, the International Association of Firefighter AFL-CIO, the New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs, and the New Jersey League of Municipalities were granted leave to participate as amicus curiae.

HELD:

PERC narrowed the scope of managerial executive beyond the statutory definition; therefore, the Court excises from the Borough of Montvale the requirement that an employee must exercise organization-wide power in order to fit within the managerial executive exception. PERC's articulation in State of New Jersey of the standard for determining whether an employee falls within the confidential-employee exception is consistent with the statutory definition.

1. Borough of Montvale is PERC's seminal case concerning the managerial executive exception. PERC interprets the Act to require that managerial executives possess and exercise a level of authority and independent judgment sufficient to affect broadly the organization's purposes or its means of effectuation of these purposes. PERC construes this exception narrowly. Concerning the confidential-employee exception, PERC continues to rely on the framework set forth in State of New Jersey and narrowly construes this exception as well. (pp. 15-24)

2. Substantial deference must be accorded an agency charged with enforcing an act. An agency's interpretation prevails unless the interpretation is plainly unreasonable. Moreover, if an agency's interpretation is contrary to the statutory language, or if the agency's interpretation undermines the legislative intent, no deference is required. (pp. 26-27)

3. A private employer's concerns are somewhat different from those of a public employer, especially in view of the different labor relations dynamic that exists in the public sector. In affording supervisor's organizational rights under the Act, it can be inferred that the Legislature appropriately took into account the differences between public sector and private sector labor negotiations. Other distinctions recognized by the Legislature include: the inability of public employees to strike; and the narrower scope of negotiations than in the private sector. Public employees are given negotiation rights concerning only a limited range of subjects that intimately and directly affect their work and welfare. (pp. 27-29)

4. PERC narrowed the scope of the managerial executive beyond the statutory definition. The requirement that managerial executives "possess and exercise a level of authority and independent judgment sufficient to affect broadly the organization's purposes or its means of effectuation of these purposes" is unduly restrictive. The Court excises that requirement from Borough of Montvale. The statutory definition, together with the Borough of Montvale standard as modified here, provides a functional test that is neither plainly unreasonable, contrary to the language of the Act, nor subversive of the Legislature's intent. (pp. 30-33)

5. The Legislature did not intend to preclude those with mere access to confidential general personnel information from joining a collective negotiating unit. The functional test set forth in the statutory definition of "confidential employee," together with the standards set forth by PERC in State of New Jersey, can adequately address whether those employees with access to labor relations materials should be excluded from unit membership. The initial inquiry is whether an employee's functional responsibilities or knowledge would make their participation in a negotiating unit incompatible with their official duties. (pp. 33-36)

6. Employees who assimilate, evaluate, analyze and otherwise provide significant information to their supervisors for use in the labor negotiations process will not be considered confidential employees per se. Application of the statute and PERC's review on a case-by-case basis is a more appropriate method of determining whether to exclude employees from negotiating units. (pp. 36)

As MODIFIED, judgment of the Appellate Division remanding the matter to PERC for further proceedings is AFFIRMED.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES HANDLER, O'HERN, GARIBALDI and COLEMAN join in JUSTICE STEIN'S opinion. JUSTICE POLLOCK did not participate.

The opinion of the Court was delivered by

STEIN, J.

This appeal concerns whether certain New Jersey Turnpike Authority (Authority) employees can join collective negotiating units. The New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act (Act) N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 to -29, provides public employees with broad powers to "form, join and assist" employee organizations. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.3. Two important exceptions to that right involve "managerial executives" and "confidential employees." See ibid. Managerial executives are those who "formulate management policies and practices, and persons who are charged with the responsibility of directing the effectuation of such management policies and practices . . . ." N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3(f). Confidential employees possess "functional responsibilities or knowledge in connection with the issues involved in the collective negotiations process [that] would make their membership in any appropriate negotiating unit incompatible with their official duties." N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3(g).

Those statutory definitions have been interpreted by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), the body charged with enforcing and implementing the Act. See N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.2. Relying in part on its own interpretations of the managerial executive and confidential employee exceptions, PERC certified Authority employees for membership in three separate negotiating units. The Authority appealed all three certifications, claiming that the certified employees should have been excluded because they were either managerial executives or confidential employees or because public policy required their exclusion. The Appellate Division reversed and remanded, construing both the managerial executive and confidential employee exceptions more broadly than did PERC, and noting that "the practical effect of PERC's decision is to leave the Authority with only twenty members of its management team from whom it can expect full loyalty uncompromised by union membership." 289 N.J. Super. 23, 26 (1996). PERC and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 73 (AFSCME) petitioned for certification. We granted both petitions. 147 N.J. at 261 (1996).

I

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority was created by the Legislature in 1948 to design, construct, operate and maintain a high speed, limited access roadway. See L. 1948, c. 454, § 1 (codified as amended at N.J.S.A. 27:23-1). The Turnpike is now 148 miles long; an average of approximately 550,000 vehicles per day traveled the Turnpike in 1995. Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey 168 (1997). Approximately 2365 employees work for the Authority. Ibid.

Testimony before PERC's hearing officer revealed that the Authority's Commissioners ultimately are responsible for all policies, budget approval, personnel actions, negotiations, and contract administration approval, subject to the Governor's veto power. Below the Commissioners in the Authority's management structure is an Executive Director, who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Authority. See N.J.A.C. 19:9-7.2. At the time of the PERC decisions, the Authority was divided into nine departments, each run by a department director: engineering; maintenance; tolls; operations; finance and budget; law; public affairs; human resources; and administrative services and technology.

In June 1991, AFSCME petitioned PERC to represent eighty-eight Authority employees in a supervisory unit. The petitioned-for employees occupied positions subordinate to that of department director. The Authority opposed the petition, claiming that all of the petitioned-for titles were inappropriate for inclusion in a collective negotiating unit because they were managerial executives or confidential employees, because supervisory conflicts existed between the titles, and also because the titles subject to the petition included non-supervisory personnel who should not be represented in a supervisory unit. PERC referred the contested matter to a hearing officer for factfinding and recommendation. The hearing officer heard fourteen days of testimony, after which she produced a 163-page report recommending that all but fourteen of the petitioned-for titles be certified. H.O. No. 93-2, 19 N.J.P.E.R. P 24154 (1993).

The Authority filed exceptions to the hearing officer's report. PERC transferred the case to itself pursuant to N.J.A.C. 19:11-8.8 (subsequently recodified at N.J.A.C. 19:11-9.1) and issued a decision that modified the hearing officer's recommendations slightly. P.E.R.C. No. 94-24, 19 N.J.P.E.R. P 24218 (1993). PERC accepted the hearing officer's recommendation to exclude fourteen employees from the negotiating unit. Additionally, PERC, in order to prevent intra-unit conflicts, excluded five nonsupervisors from the unit, as well as twenty employees who supervised lower-level supervisors in the unit. Although PERC's decision excluded more employees from unit membership than the hearing officer's report, PERC generally rejected the Authority's claim that many of the affected employees were either managerial executives or confidential employees. Ibid. When considering the Authority's claims concerning managerial executive status, PERC relied largely on its decision in Borough of Montvale, P.E.R.C. No. 81-52, 6 N.J.P.E.R. P 11259 (1980). That opinion reads in pertinent part:

A person formulates policies when he develops a particular set of objectives designed to further the mission of the governmental unit and when he selects a course of action from among available alternatives. A person directs the effectuation of policy when he is charged with developing the methods, means, and extent of reaching a policy objective and thus oversees or coordinates policy implementation by line supervisors. Simply put, a managerial executive must possess and exercise a level of authority and independent judgment sufficient to affect broadly the organization's purposes or its means of effectuation of these purposes. Whether or not an employee possesses this level of authority may generally be determined by focusing on the interplay of three factors: (1) the relative position of that employee in his employer's hierarchy; (2) his functions and responsibilities; and (3) the extent of discretion he exercises.

PERC determined that "none of [the petitioned-for employees] exercises a level of authority and independent judgment sufficient to broadly affect the Authority's purposes or means of effecting these purposes." 19 N.J.P.E.R. P 24218. After considering, among other things, "the Act's policy favoring organization of all employees desiring it," PERC determined that, with the exception of one employee, "the petitioned-for employees do not meet the narrow definition of managerial executive." Ibid.

Concerning confidential employees, PERC reiterated its holding in State of New Jersey, P.E.R.C. No. 86-18, 11 N.J.P.E.R. P 16179 (1985):

The Commission's approach to confidential employee disputes has thus been consistent since 1970. We scrutinize the facts of each case to find for whom each employee works, what he does, and what he knows about collective negotiations issues. Finally, we determine whether the responsibilities or knowledge of each employee would compromise the employer's right to confidentiality concerning the collective negotiations process if the employee was included in a negotiating unit.

After engaging in an individualized analysis of the employees claimed by the Authority to be confidential, PERC excluded one employee who had been promoted since the hearing officer's report to a position involving the analysis and formulation of collective negotiations strategies relating to possible changes in employee medical insurance benefits. 19 N.J.P.E.R. P 24218.

The balance of PERC's opinion addressed intra-unit conflicts of interest among supervisors. Such conflicts were addressed by this Court in Board of Education v. Wilton, which held that where "substantial actual or potential conflict of interest exists among supervisors with respect to their duties and obligations to the employer in relation to each other, the requisite community of interest among them is lacking," thereby making a single unit impermissible. 57 N.J. 404, 427, (1971). Relying on Wilton, PERC concluded that "it would be inappropriate for the proposed unit to include supervisors who supervise and evaluate other supervisors" and excluded twenty employees. 19 N.J.P.E.R. P 24218.

PERC's decision concluded by listing both those employees excluded from joining the proposed unit and those eligible for unit membership. PERC ordered an election among the eligible employees to determine if a majority of those employees wished to be ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.