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Appellate Division Affirms Law Division’s Vacation of Arbitration Award in Employment Action

April 02, 2018

 

ROBERT B. SPAWN reports on a recent unpublished decision from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

 

A recent New Jersey case involved a District filing an “inefficiency tenure” charge against a  teacher in September 2014 after the teacher had received “partially effective” ratings based on annual evaluations for the previous two consecutive school years (2012-2013 and 2013-2014). An arbitrator granted the inefficiency tenure charge and ordered the teacher’s termination. The teacher appealed this decision to a trial court in the Law Division.

 

The trial court reversed, reasoning that the arbitrator had exceeded or imperfectly executed his powers. The court noted that although there were statutory and regulatory provisions in place that allowed for the removal of a tenured teacher after an ineffective or partially effective performance in two consecutive school years, those provisions did not take full effect until the 2013-2014 school year. The 2012-2013 school year served only as a “pilot” year for those regulations, meaning that the “partially effective” ratings in that year should not have counted against the teacher for purposes of the newly-enacted rule. Thus, because the arbitrator improperly relied on the 2012-2013 evaluations in making his decision, the trial court found that the original award was procured by “undue means” and ordered the teacher reinstated to his previous position.

 

The District appealed the vacation of the arbitration award, arguing that the trial court judge had failed to properly explain his findings of fact and conclusions of law. Although the Appellate Division somewhat agreed with the District and commented on the terseness of the judge’s opinion, it upheld the trial court’s order. Indeed, in following the trial court’s reasoning, the Appellate Division held that the arbitrator’s use of the 2012-2013 evaluations was a mistake that was apparent on the face of the record.

 

Please contact Robert B. Spawn if you have any questions or need assistance in connection with this subject.