It’s That Time of Year Again for Public School Employees

Public School Class in session

In New Jersey, every year, on or before May 15, non-tenured public school employees, such as paraprofessionals, teachers, and vice principals, must receive either a new employment contract or written notification that their employment contract is not being renewed. If a non-tenured employee does not receive a notification of non-renewal, the employee is presumed to be reemployed for the next school year under the same terms and conditions.

Within 15 days of receiving a notice of non-renewal notice, the non-tenured employee may request the statement of reasons for the non-renewal. This statement of reasons must be provided within 30 days of the request. A non-tenured employee can be non-renewed for any reason or no reason at all. However, the reason for non-renewal cannot be for a reason that would be “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.” Retaliation and discrimination are unreasonable, as well as illegal, reasons to not renew an employment contract. For example, a non-renewal based on an employee’s exercise of medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) or an employee’s pregnancy are illegal reasons to end the employment relationship. Understandably, a school district or board of education would not provide any of those reasons as the basis for non-renewal. Instead, a different reason would be offered which would purport to be a legitimate reason for the non-renewal. In one case handled by Morgan Rooks PC, a non-tenured teacher’s employment agreement was renewed after her first year of teaching at the school district. The teacher scored well on the three state-mandated performance observations she received during her first year. Midway through her second year of teaching, after receiving two positive performance observations, the teacher became pregnant. After her pregnancy announcement, she did not receive her third observation. In May of 2021, she received a notice of non-renewal. When she requested the reasons for non-renewal, she was informed that she “did not have enough school spirit” and did not demonstrate enough enthusiasm. And, the school district also told her, in writing, that she “was not a good fit.” The non-renewal was not supported by any measurable performance objectives. The reasons cited by the school district were the antithesis of legitimate reasons to end the employment relationship. For that reason, Morgan Rooks, PC sued the school district.

Employees without tenure do not enjoy the same job security as tenured employees. But, they are still entitled to the full protection of New Jersey’s laws, including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the Pregnant Women’s Fairness Act (PWFA), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), as well as the protections under applicable Federal law. If you are non-tenured employee of a public school and learn that your employment is being non-renewed, promptly request a statement of reasons. If you think that your non-renewal was motivated by a retaliatory or discriminatory reason, call Morgan Rooks PC for a free legal consultation.

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