lrEmployment Incentives

In other states, the offer of employment incentives to desired candidates has become a frequent strategy. (For a summary of the types of incentives offered by school districts outside of New Jersey, see the Summary of Districts’ Recruitment Efforts and the Resource entries included in this topic.) In New Jersey, however, the use of incentives appears to have been far more limited and districts appear to have primarily relied on attracting teachers by increasing initial salaries through placement on the salary guide.

New Jersey’s more limited approach is more than likely related to the strong collective bargaining environment which exists in this state. In fact, some districts that have unilaterally decided to attract new staff by giving additional credit on the salary guide have faced grievances and arbitration (see Vernon Township and Marlboro Township, cited below, where both districts’ guide placement of new teachers in areas of critical shortages was challenged by the local union.)

The Negotiability of Employment Incentives

To date, the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) has not addressed the negotiability of all types of employment incentives. Therefore the negotiability of this issue has not been fully litigated and thus is not fully resolved. However, PERC has addressed the:

Negotiability of Incentives Based on Initial Placement on the Salary Guide. In this area, PERC has determined the:

arbitrability of grievances challenging boards’ initial placement of new hires on the salary guide.

  • Initial placement on the guide has long been held to be a mandatorily negotiable issue. Belleville Ed. Ass’n v. Belleville Bd. of Ed., 209 N.J.Super93 (1986)
  • In both Vernon Township Board of Education Vernon Township Board of Education, PERC No. 2002-61, 27 NJPER32049 and Marlboro Board of Education, PERC No. 2002-61, 28 NJPER 33078 PERC held that neither case raised issues that were sufficient to warrant restraining arbitration over the issue of guide placement, since that issue has “consistently been held to be mandatorily negotiable.”

But, in these decisions PERC also recognized

need of school boards to have flexibility to offer incentives and has held that:

  • that arbitration over the initial placement of new hires necessary to fill vacancies in areas of teacher shortages could not be used to “block management from fulfilling its educational obligation to provide qualified teachers to teach math and science courses.” Vernon Township Board of Education, PERC No. 2002-61, 27 NJPER 32049.
  • although initial placement of the salary guide is negotiable, the Commission “recognized that public employers may need flexibility to offer inducements to attract needed staff.”Marlboro Board of Education, PERC No. 2002-61, 28NJPER 33078.

Accordingly, in both Vernon and Marlboro, PERC held that the arbitration awards could notpresent significant interference with boards’ obligation to provide qualified teachers to teach courses in areas of critical shortages. PERC has therefore retained jurisdiction over these cases in the event an arbitrator rules against the board and the board appeals the award on the grounds that the award would impermissibly interfere with the board’s rights. (Note: As of October 2002, PERC has not been asked to review these arbitrators’ awards.)

Negotiability of Other Types of Incentives The negotiability status of other types of incentives remains largely undetermined. In fact, other than the cases cited above, PERC has not addressed the issue of inducements to attract staff. This may become an active area of developing case law and boards are advised to remain alert to the issuance of future new decisions that will further refine their negotiations obligation. Until then, boards may find some guidance in earlier PERC decisions which held that:

  • incentives that do not alter the compensation or work hours of either unit employees or applicants and that are offered only when “necessary” to recruit an applicant may not be negotiable,” New Jersey Institute of Technology,PERC No. 83-72, 9 NJPER 1406, aff’d NJPER Supp. 2d 141(App. Div.1984), in which PERC restrained arbitration of a grievance that challenged the college’s offer of early tenure or a mulit-year contract to teacher applicants who could not be recruited without such assurances);
  • the decision to rent housing to unit employees is, in the abstract, mandatorily negotiable. New Jersey (Office of Employee Relations), Trenton State College and Council of New Jersey State College Locals, NJSFT-AFT/AFL-CIO, PERC No. 92-100, 18 NJPER 23084. However, in this case, PERC also held that the College’s providing new faculty with rental or purchase options was not a unilateral action as rental options had also been available to current employees.

New Developments: Updates of new developments in this area will be posted on this page and in the Recent Labor Relations Cases page listed under the E-briefcase section of the NJSBA home page.