To Our School Board Community:
We have been fielding several questions regarding payment of non-certified or non-instructional staff employees in the public school system during a School District closure to students. This guidance is subject to any laws passed on an emergent basis during this unprecedented time. We recommend your School District consider the following:
- Follow your plan submitted to the New Jersey Department of Education.
- Always have the health, safety, and welfare of your students and staff at the forefront of any decision making.
- Check Collective Bargaining Agreements; while they are not likely to address this type of situation, they may provide guidance, especially if the district has dealt with other emergent situations; be mindful of past practice.
- Generally, a public entity typically does not pay a salary to a person who is not performing work on behalf of the District.
- This issue is currently on appeal before the New Jersey Supreme Court, regarding the payment of a salary to employees working fulltime for their associations.
- However, Boards ARE statutorily authorized to provide “the payment of salary in cases of absence not constituting sick leave…” Therefore a Board can most likely provide extended paid leave to employees.
- You may consider negotiating payment terms with your local association, but the closing of schools is non-negotiable.
- During the school shutdown, you should consider the following:
- Have employees who work from home provide some form of check-in for staff.
- Have designated times in which staff are expected to check e-mails and voicemails.
- Have staff continue to respond to parents/follow-up, and be available during the “school day.”
- Allow support staff to reach out to teachers they support in the classroom to support them in any way possible.
- Consider whether and to what extent employees such as custodians and maintenance workers continue to come into work to keep the buildings clean and the grounds well-kept, subject to restrictions on gatherings, or other closure orders.
- If you provided extended paid leave to employees not performing job responsibilities:
- Notify employees that based upon the length of time the School District is closed, their paid status might change.
- The Board should authorize or ratify paid leave.
If you have any further questions about paying employees in the coming weeks, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Authored by: Elizabeth C. White, Esq.