Andrew Rubin, Esq.

Employment dispute of Parsippany paraprofessionals settled

In the current economy, many people are taking work in any form, and are more willing to accept unfavorable terms. These difficult financial times caused the teacher's aides and assistants of Parsippany, New Jersey to work for several years without a contract. Recently their Board of Education surprised everyone in the community by settling the employment dispute.

The paraprofessionals have never had a contract in the four years they have been represented by their union, the Parsippany-Troy Hills Educational Support Association. The dispute was heard by a fact finder who issued a report recommending a settlement. Though the recommendation of the fact finder was less than the paraprofessionals wanted, they decided to accept the report. The Board of Education, however, continued to resist. The dispute festered there for a long time.

The dispute involved how much money the paraprofessionals would make and whether they should be receive back pay. The fact finder recommended that they receive 3 percent pay raises for the 2007-2008 schools year, and 2 percent raises for the 2009-2010 schools year. No raise was recommended for 2011, and there was no recommendation that the workers should receive health care benefits.

The issue remained at an impasse until the Board of Education meeting on July 12. The Board met in private session to discuss unrelated contract issues involving the Superintendant of Schools. After a private session of some two hours, the Board reopened its public session. At that time, a Board member made an unexpected motion that the Board accepts the conclusions of the fact finder concerning the paraprofessionals.

The matter was not even on the agenda for the Board meeting, and neither union representatives nor workers were present. The surprise action passed by a 7-2 margin, and the paraprofessionals had their first contract. The two dissenters were concerned about retroactive pay and the possibility of needing to raise taxes to meet the additional contract terms.

Employment disputes in New Jersey and elsewhere understandably involve a balancing act between rewarding merit and assuring the ability to pay. Many times there are complicated legal issues to consider. In Parsippany, those issues appear to have been resolved through the hard work of the parties and with the assistance of a fact finder. Individuals involved in an employment dispute would benefit from legal counsel from an attorney with knowledge in this area of law.

Source: Parsippany Patch, "BOE Surprises Paraprofessionals By Ending Four-Year Contract Dispute," Natalie Davis, July 13, 2011

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