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Donald Degroot v. Linden Board of Education

February 1, 2012

DONALD DEGROOT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LINDEN BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Docket No. DC-022413-10.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE

APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 9, 2011

Before Judges Yannotti and Kennedy.

Plaintiff Donald DeGroot (DeGroot) appeals from an order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant Linden Board of Education (Linden BOE), dismissing claims for payment for unused vacation days, and an order denying plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. Because there exists a disputed issue of material fact, we reverse.

I This is a contract action in which the facts are essentially undisputed except for one key area pertinent to plaintiff's claims which we shall identify hereafter. The Linden BOE hired DeGroot as an Information Technology Manager in February 2002. DeGroot was not a member of the Linden Administrators and Supervisors Association (LASA), a bargaining unit recognized by the Linden BOE. He negotiated a separate individual employment contract directly.

Paragraph six (6) of DeGroot's contract with the Linden BOE, governing benefits and entitlements, provided as follows:

Except as otherwise set forth herein, and except as may be inconsistent with specific terms hereof during the life of this contract, DeGroot shall receive all benefits and entitlements including vacation days, personal days, holidays, longevity, bereavement and sick leave provided to all employees pursuant to the policies and procedures of the Board and as agreed to in the contract between the Board and the Linden Administrators and Supervisors Association in existence at the time of execution of this contract.

At the time, the agreement between the Linden BOE and LASA provided for a $70 per day payment for all unused sick days upon retirement and an option to receive a payment of $100 for each personal day that had not been used by the end of the year. However, the agreement did not provide payment for unused vacation days.

By letter dated March 31, 2010, DeGroot, then sixty-five, notified the Superintendent of Schools that he would retire as of September 1, 2010. DeGroot's notice of intention to retire was accepted by the Linden BOE at its April 28, 2010 meeting. Also, at that time, the Linden BOE approved a two month extension of DeGroot's employment contract.

Approximately forty-five days later, on May 11, 2010, DeGroot changed his retirement date to August 1, 2010. He had, at that point, accrued twenty-three vacation days, three personal days and thirty-nine sick days. He intended to use his vacation and personal days through July and retire on August 1, 2010. However, the Superintendent asked DeGroot to work during July in order to train his replacement as Information Technology Manager. DeGroot, believing that he would be paid for his unused vacation and personal days, agreed and worked the entire month of July 2010 and retired effective August 1, 2010.

After his retirement, DeGroot requested compensation for his unused sick days, personal days and vacation days. At the Linden BOE's September 15, 2010 meeting, it approved his request for compensation of his unused sick days, but refused to compensate him for unused vacation and personal days.

The attorney for the Linden BOE wrote to DeGroot on September 16, 2010, and informed him that his request for compensation for either ...


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