Protections for Untenured New Jersey Teachers

Protections for Untenured New Jersey Teachers

McLaughlin & Nardi, LLC’s attorneys represent tenured and non-tenured teaching staff members.

Untenured teachers and other nontenured teaching staff members have far fewer rights than tenured employees.  In essence, they are “employees at will.”  However, this does not mean they are without any rights.  In fact, while less than those with tenure, non-tenured employees do have substantial rights.  Our attorneys have significant experience and have achieved substantial success representing both tenured and untenured teaching staff members in New Jersey’s public schools.

Advance Notice of Non-Renewal or Automatic Renewal.  Although nontenured employees do not have as much protection, they do have rights.  For instance, every nontenured teaching staff member must receive a written offer of an employment contract for the following academic year, or that her contract will not be renewed, by May 15th.  Failure by the employer to timely provide this notice is deemed an offer of employment with a contract on the same terms as the prior year with required salary increases. The employee must accept in writing by June 1st.

Statement of Reasons.  A teacher who is not renewed or is terminated has the right to a written statement of the reasons for being let go.

Donaldson Hearings.  A teaching staff member who is not renewed or is terminated is entitled to an appearance before the board of education where she can attempt to convince the board members to offer reemployment or not accept the recommendation for her termination.  This appearance, which is informal and not subject to the rules of evidence, is known as a Donaldson hearing, after the case of Donaldson v. Board of Education of City of North Wildwood, in which New Jersey’s Supreme Court first recognized this right.

Rice Notice.  Under New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act, Boards of Education are supposed to discuss personnel issues in closed session.  However, an employee is entitled to notice of the meeting and the issues to be discussed about her in non-renewals or terminations.  This is called a “Rice Notice,” after the case of Rice v. Union County Regional High School Board of Education, in which New Jersey’s Appellate Division found the right to this notice.  This notice allows the employee to exercise her right to a Donaldson hearing, and to have that hearing in public session is she chooses and gives the board proper notice.

Discrimination.  A non-tenured employee is protected by all the state and federal anti-discrimination laws applicable to any other public or private sector employee.  New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination is considered perhaps the strongest law protecting employees from discrimination in the country.  This provides non-tenured teachers with a broad range of protection.

Whistleblowing.  New Jersey’s law protecting whistleblowers, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (or “CEPA”), is likewise one of the strongest protections in the country for employees.  CEPA protects employees who object to practices or policies of their employer which violate law or public policy.  CEPA provides for punitive damages and payment by the employer of the employee’s attorneys fees if she prevails.  

Harassment.  A retaliatory or discriminatory adverse employment action is not all that is required to violate New Jersey’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws.  Thus, employers may not get away with harassing an employee because of her race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., or because she objected to illegal activities, just because she has not been fired.  Harassment is prohibited as well.

Contact Us.  If you believe your employer’s conduct has violated your rights, please contact us.  We can be reached by phone at (973) 890-0004, or by e-mail.  If you believe your rights have been violated you should call as soon as possible, because many of your potential remedies have short time frames within which to act. We can help.

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