Castellano v. Linden Bd. of Ed.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Writing for the CourtSULLIVAN; SCHREIBER; CLIFFORD; HANDLER
Citation79 N.J. 407,400 A.2d 1182
Parties, 34 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1474, 19 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 9163 Sandra CASTELLANO, Complainant-Respondent, v. LINDEN BOARD OF EDUCATION, Frank Mannuzza and Americo Taranto, Respondents-Appellants.
Decision Date09 April 1979

Page 407

79 N.J. 407
400 A.2d 1182, 34 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1474,
19 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 9163
Sandra CASTELLANO, Complainant-Respondent,
v.
LINDEN BOARD OF EDUCATION, Frank Mannuzza and Americo
Taranto, Respondents-Appellants.
Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Argued Nov. 14, 1978.
Decided April 9, 1979.

Page 408

Yale Manoff, Springfield, for respondents-appellants (Weinberg, Manoff & Dietz, Springfield, attorneys; David Paul Ericksen, Springfield, on the brief).

Joseph M. Gorrell, Deputy Atty. Gen., for complainant-respondent and the Div. on Civil Rights (John J. Degnan, Atty. Gen., attorney; Erminie L. Conley, Deputy Atty. Gen., of counsel).

The opinion of the court was delivered by

SULLIVAN, J.

This is a civil rights case. The complainant, Sandra Castellano, is a married, tenured school teacher employed by the Linden Board of Education (Board). She became pregnant and gave birth to a child on August 29, 1974. During August and prior to the birth, she informed the Board of her wish to resume her teaching duties after her confinement. (She was certified by her physician as being able to do so as of September 27, 1974.) However, the Board required her to take a one-year maternity leave of absence and also denied her request to apply her accumulated sick leave to her absence due to childbirth.

The Board's position was bottomed on a collectively negotiated agreement between the Board and the Linden Educational Association which provided for a mandatory [400 A.2d 1183] maternity

Page 409

leave for a tenured teacher. 1 A separate provision of the agreement dealing with allowable sick leave and the accumulation thereof did not refer to absence on account of pregnancy.

On October 17, 1974 Mrs. Castellano filed a complaint with the Division of Civil Rights alleging that she was being discriminated against on account of sex. During the pendency of the hearing, the Board, on December 9, 1974, permitted complainant to return to her teaching duties.

The Director of the Division of Civil Rights, after a plenary hearing, found that the Board's policies of a mandatory one-year maternity leave, and refusal to allow a pregnant teacher to use her accumulated sick leave for her absence due to childbirth, discriminated against complainant because of her sex and were in violation of the New Jersey "Law Against Discrimination," N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 Et seq. The Director, in addition to declaring the foregoing policies or practices to be unlawful, awarded complainant $3,557.10, her loss of pay from September 1974 to December 9, 1974. 2 She was also awarded $600 damages for "humiliation, pain and mental suffering." The Director's order included specific "cease and desist" provisions ancillary to the affirmative relief ordered.

The Appellate Division, in a comprehensive opinion, 158 N.J.Super. 350, 386 A.2d 396 (1978), affirmed the Director's decision and order with the exception of paragraph 11 thereof. That paragraph which required that any provision for leave for

Page 410

child care include male as well as female employees, was vacated, the Attorney General conceding that the subject matter of paragraph 11 was beyond the scope of the case. Certification was granted by this Court. 77 N.J. 485, 391 A.2d 499 (1978).

Subject to our comment in note 2, we agree substantially with the Appellate Division ruling and underlying reasoning as set forth in its opinion, except for its affirmance of the award of $600 damages to complainant for "humiliation, pain and mental suffering." While we agree with the award of full back pay, we conclude that the proofs do not support the $600 award.

The Board, in applying its policies of mandatory maternity leave and sick leave utilization, was unquestionably acting in good faith pursuant to contractual provisions incorporated in a collectively negotiated agreement between the Board and the Linden Educational Association. 3 Failure on the Board's part to abide by the terms of such agreement could have subjected the Board to a claim of an unfair labor practice.

The evidence to support the $600 award is as follows. In August 1974 complainant had written to the Superintendent of Schools advising him of her pregnancy. She informed him that she intended to be ready for the opening of school in September, but would be temporarily absent for her child's birth. In response to her communication, complainant received letters from the Superintendent of Schools and the Board's counsel referring to the contractual provisions for maternity leave and sick leave. She was notified that the Board had granted her a maternity leave of absence from September 1, 1974 to June 30, 1975. "Best wishes for the coming blessed event" [400 A.2d 1184] were expressed. The child was born on August 29, 1974.

Page 411

At the civil rights hearing complainant was asked about her personal reaction to these letters. Her answer was:

First upset I couldn't believe it, I couldn't believe that this was happening to me. I saw no basis for this. Upset. Cried. Stayed in the house for a while.

She was then asked why she was upset, and answered:

Because I didn't think that something like this could happen to me. I was afraid of the way people would react to me; just the whole thing, the whole just upset me.

Q. Did you cry on one occasion or on more than one occasion?

A. No, many.

Q. How long a period would you say this upset lasted?

A. Oh a couple of weeks, I guess.

On cross-examination complainant acknowledged that she had known all along about the contractual provision concerning maternity leave and sick leave. However, she said she was depressed "because of this case."

Complainant's husband also testified that his wife became "very upset" after he related to her a conversation he had with the Superintendent of Schools in August 1974 regarding her return to work.

We recognize that the award is not substantial. But we are dealing with public funds and a public body which acted in good faith in accordance with contractual provisions negotiated with complainant's own representative. The evidence adduced at the hearing in support of the $600 award is nebulous. There was no basis for any feeling of humiliation on complainant's part. Maternity leaves of absence of one kind or another are commonplace. While we uphold the ruling that a mandatory one-year maternity leave without pay and without allowance for use of accumulated sick leave is discriminatory, we are unable to find in the record a substantial basis for compensation for "humiliation, pain and mental suffering," in addition to the award of full back pay.

Page 412

Defendant Board argues that the affirmance by the Appellate Division of the finding of sex discrimination herein is contrary to the decision by another panel of the Appellate Division in Gilchrist v. Board of Education of Haddonfield, 155 N.J.Super. 358, 382 A.2d 946 (1978). We find the decisions to be distinguishable. In Gilchrist, the contract of a non-tenured school teacher was not renewed because she had notified her Board of Education of her pregnancy and expected delivery in late September or early October. The basis for the nonrenewal of her contract was that her prospective disability and absence from school would interfere with a firm Board policy of continuity of instruction without interruption. The Appellate Division, in Gilchrist, in holding that no discrimination based on sex had been shown, emphasized that the Board's policy was not limited to disability and absence resulting from pregnancy but applied to anticipated absence of substantial duration from teaching duties, for any reason. Id. at 368-369, 382 A.2d 941.

Concededly, in Gilchrist, the Appellate Division found in the Board's policy of continuity of classroom instruction a rational basis for nonrenewal of the teaching contract. In the instant case, defendant Board emphasizes the need for continuity of classroom instruction as the justification for its policy of a mandatory one-year maternity leave.

We agree that the continuity concept is a legitimate goal for a Board to consider. However, it cannot be adhered to blindly at the expense of the civil rights of teachers. The policy of a mandatory one-year maternity leave may have been well intentioned. In purpose and effect, though, it discriminates against teachers because of their sex. It is therefore illegal and void.

The nonallowance of the use of accumulated sick leave during complainant's absence[400 A.2d 1185] due to childbirth suffers from the same fault. A woman giving birth to a child becomes physically disabled and unable to attend to her teaching duties for that reason. It is discriminatory not to allow her to use her accumulated sick leave during that period of

Page 413

temporary disability, when it can be used for any other period of absence due to physical disability.

The judgment of the Appellate Division is in all respects affirmed except for its allowance of $600 damages for humiliation, pain and mental suffering. That part of the judgment is reversed.

Page 421

For affirmance of order: Chief Justice HUGHES and Justices MOUNTAIN, SULLIVAN, PASHMAN and HANDLER 5.

For reversal of order in part: Justices CLIFFORD and SCHREIBER 2.

For reversal of damages: Chief Justice HUGHES and Justices MOUNTAIN, SULLIVAN and SCHREIBER 4.

For affirmance of damages: Justices PASHMAN, CLIFFORD and HANDLER 3.

Page 413

SCHREIBER, J., concurring and dissenting.

I join in the majority's judgment that the mandatory maternity leave and sick leave provisions of the agreement between the Linden Board of Education and the Linden Education Association violated the Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 Et seq. I also agree with the majority's determination concerning the award for humiliation and mental suffering. However, I cannot agree with its blanket approval of the Director's order which in some significant respects far exceeds the issues which were presented.

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31 practice notes
  • McKenna v. Pacific Rail Service, Nos. 93-5253 and 93-5385
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • September 27, 1994
    ...discrimination); Castellano v. Linden Board of Education, 158 N.J.Super. 350, 386 A.2d 396, 402 (App.Div.1978), mod. on other grounds, 79 N.J. 407, 400 A.2d 1182 (1979) (holding that pregnancy discrimination violated the LAD contrary to the Supreme Court's decision in Gilbert ). Page 839 In......
  • Hernandez v. Region Nine Housing Corp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • November 26, 1996
    ...discrimination in cases brought before the Division. Shaner, supra, 116 N.J. at 438, 561 A.2d 1130; Castellano v. Linden Bd. of Educ., 79 N.J. 407, 417, 400 A.2d 1182 (1979) (Handler, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); Sprague v. Glassboro State College, 161 N.J.Super. 218, 226......
  • Berman v. Allan
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 26, 1979
    ...stipulation); Gray v. Serruto Builders, Inc., 110 N.J.Super. 297, 265 A.2d 404 (Ch.Div.1970); Cf. Castellano v. Linden Board of Education, 79 N.J. 407, 416, 400 A.2d 1182 (1978) (Handler, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Also see W. Prosser, Law of Torts § 12, pp. 49-62 (4th ......
  • Delli Santi v. CNA Ins. Companies, No. 94-5331
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 20, 1996
    ...basis for compensation.' " Abrams v. Lightolier, Inc., 841 F.Supp. 584, 593 (D.N.J.1994) (quoting Castellano v. Linden Bd. of Educ., 79 N.J. 407, 400 A.2d 1182, 1184 (1979)), aff'd, 50 F.3d 1204 (3d Here, the jury awarded Delli Santi $300,000 for pain and suffering. The district court, howe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • McKenna v. Pacific Rail Service, Nos. 93-5253 and 93-5385
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • September 27, 1994
    ...discrimination); Castellano v. Linden Board of Education, 158 N.J.Super. 350, 386 A.2d 396, 402 (App.Div.1978), mod. on other grounds, 79 N.J. 407, 400 A.2d 1182 (1979) (holding that pregnancy discrimination violated the LAD contrary to the Supreme Court's decision in Gilbert ). Page 839 In......
  • Hernandez v. Region Nine Housing Corp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • November 26, 1996
    ...discrimination in cases brought before the Division. Shaner, supra, 116 N.J. at 438, 561 A.2d 1130; Castellano v. Linden Bd. of Educ., 79 N.J. 407, 417, 400 A.2d 1182 (1979) (Handler, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); Sprague v. Glassboro State College, 161 N.J.Super. 218, 226......
  • Berman v. Allan
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 26, 1979
    ...stipulation); Gray v. Serruto Builders, Inc., 110 N.J.Super. 297, 265 A.2d 404 (Ch.Div.1970); Cf. Castellano v. Linden Board of Education, 79 N.J. 407, 416, 400 A.2d 1182 (1978) (Handler, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Also see W. Prosser, Law of Torts § 12, pp. 49-62 (4th ......
  • Delli Santi v. CNA Ins. Companies, No. 94-5331
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 20, 1996
    ...basis for compensation.' " Abrams v. Lightolier, Inc., 841 F.Supp. 584, 593 (D.N.J.1994) (quoting Castellano v. Linden Bd. of Educ., 79 N.J. 407, 400 A.2d 1182, 1184 (1979)), aff'd, 50 F.3d 1204 (3d Here, the jury awarded Delli Santi $300,000 for pain and suffering. The district court, howe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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