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Mary Hyland v. Township of Lebanon

April 7, 2011

MARY HYLAND, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF LEBANON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hunterdon County, Docket No. L-662-08.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued March 1, 2011

Before Judges Parrillo, Yannotti and Espinosa.

The opinion of the court was delivered by YANNOTTI, J.A.D.

Defendant Township of Lebanon (Township) appeals from a judgment for plaintiff Mary Hyland in the amount of $5038.14, which was entered by the Law Division on March 31, 2010. We affirm.

I.

On October 15, 2003, the Township adopted Resolution No. 105-2003, appointing plaintiff to the position of tax collector. The resolution stated that plaintiff would work nineteen hours per week at certain specified times. The resolution also stated that plaintiff would be paid a salary of $32,000, and she would receive forty percent of the number of vacation days, sick days and personal days to which full-time employees were entitled.

Plaintiff has held the position since 2003, and acquired tenure pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:9-145.8. Moreover, in the years since 2003, plaintiff has received the same annual increases that were given to other Township employees, in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the Township and Blue and White Collar Unit Local 1040 of the Communications Workers of America (Local 1040).

In October 2008, the Township determined that plaintiff should not have been granted paid leave for vacation, sick and personal days, because the CBA only grants such compensation to persons who work twenty or more hours per week. On October 15, 2008, the Township Committee adopted a resolution, which amended any previously adopted resolutions granting paid vacation, sick and personal days to any of the Township's employees who work less than twenty hours per week, including plaintiff.

On November 20, 2008, plaintiff filed an action in lieu of prerogative writs in the Law Division. She alleged that the Township's October 15, 2008, resolution was void because it reduced her salary, in violation of N.J.S.A. 40A:9-165. Plaintiff also alleged that the October 15, 2008, resolution constituted a breach of the agreement under which she had been appointed to serve as tax collector.

In addition, plaintiff claimed that the elimination of compensation for vacation, sick and personal days was "unilateral discipline" that the Township had imposed without a hearing. Plaintiff further alleged that the Township should be estopped from refusing to pay her for vacation, sick and personal days because she had relied upon the Township's agreement that she would be compensated for such days.

Thereafter, the Township filed a motion for joinder of Local 1040 as a party. The Township argued that plaintiff was an "employee" covered by the CBA and, therefore, Local 1040 was an indispensable party in the lawsuit. The trial court denied the motion, finding that plaintiff could be afforded complete relief in the case without joining the union as a party.

In an opinion dated April 3, 2009, the court stated that, while the Township had argued that Local 1040 had an interest in the matter, there was "no indication that this is not an isolated incident involving a statutory peculiarity that only affects plaintiff individually." The ...


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