On appeal from the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission.
Approved for Publication September 30, 1997.
Before Judges Shebell, D'Annunzio and Coburn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Shebell, P.j.a.d. D'annunzio, J.A.D. (Concurring)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shebell
The opinion of the court was delivered by
This is an appeal from the denial by the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) of the petition of appellant, Edison Township Board of Education (Board) to restrain arbitration of a grievance brought by the Edison Township Principals And Supervisors Association (Association) on behalf of Joseph Krajkovich, a former Principal of the Lincoln Elementary School in Edison Township. We affirm.
By letter dated May 4, 1995, the Board advised Krajkovich that during its meeting of May 8, 1995, it would act upon the recommendation of the Superintendent to withhold the Principal's salary increment for the 1995-1996 school year. At that meeting, the Board adopted a resolution to withhold the increment. By letter dated May 9, 1995, Krajkovich was advised of the Board's action. On May 23, 1995, the Association submitted a grievance as to the withholding of Krajkovich's increment, which the Board denied on June 8, 1995.
On June 21, 1995, the Association filed a demand to arbitrate the grievance with the American Arbitration Association pursuant to the "Agreement" between the Board and the Association in effect for the period from July 1, 1993, through June 30, 1996. The Association stated that the nature of the dispute was a "disciplinary increment withhold for Joseph Krajkovich for the 1995-1996 school year." An arbitration hearing was scheduled for May 22, 1996. The arbitration was adjourned pending the determination of a scope petition filed by the Board with PERC. PERC denied the petition by decision dated October 31, 1996, and the Board appealed.
The facts appearing in the record indicate that Krajkovich was employed in the Edison Township School District for thirty-one years. During the Fall of 1994, while serving as an elementary school Principal, he was sporadically absent from work. During the Winter, he requested a paid leave of absence for medical reasons. On January 23, 1995, the Board approved his request and permitted him to take medical leave with pay for the period from January 23, 1995 through February 27, 1995. Thereafter, and until his retirement on March 1, 1996, the Board repeatedly approved requests for extensions of his sick leave with pay. The legitimacy of his sickness was not questioned.
The Board's notice to the Principal that it was going to act on the Superintendent's recommendation set forth the following reasons for withholding the 1995-1996 increment:
Intermittent and long-term absences resulting in disruption to the school environment and requiring the expense of substitute personnel.
Its letter dated May 9, 1995, advising the Principal of the Board's action, stated:
Your excessive absences, assuming same to be justified by medical necessity, have nonetheless precluded you from contributing to the educational process and have deprived the Board of a quality and consistency of performance warranting the award of a salary increment/adjustment for the upcoming school year.
The "Agreement" between the Board and the Association provides in Article IV section B(2):
Withholding of increments shall be accomplished in accordance with provisions of ...