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The issue over whether or not municipalities must negotiate temporary layoffs during periods of economic distress is back on the table. On November 29, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided IMO Robbinsville Twp BOE v. Washington Twp Educ. Assoc. , in the plaintiffs’ favor. Docket No. A-32-15 (2016).  IMO Robbinsville BOE sharply narrows the Court’s 2015 decision in IMO Borough of Keyport. 222 N.J. 314 (2015).

In Keyport, the Court upheld temporary layoffs by three Civil Service communities that were done pursuant to Civil Service regulations. At the time, Civil Service regulations allowed temporary layoffs during periods of economic distress. And, the Court held that such layoffs, and the regulations that allowed them, represented a “managerial prerogative” that could supersede required negotiation with public employees.

In Robbinsville BOE, the Court clarified that its decision in Keyport turned on the existence of applicable Civil Service regulations that allowed temporary layoffs during periods of economic distress. Ibid., Slip. Op. at 14-15. In Robbinsville BOE, the school district had argued that Keyport’s holding expanded beyond just Civil Service communities. The Robbinsville Court clarifies that this interpretation is incorrect and that Keyport’s impact is much more limited.

While the prospects for an economic downturn in the near future may be slight, non-civil service municipalities should understand the risks associated with this decision. Without further legislative or regulatory action taken on the state level, akin to the Civil Service regulations in Keyport, these towns may be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

A copy of this decision can be found here.

Contacts: Edward Purcell, Esq., Staff Attorney, epurcell@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x137,

Michael Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, mcerra@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x120.