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State: New Jersey school’s ‘football flu’ policy can be challenged

BURLINGTON CITY, N.J. — A southern New Jersey school employee has won a round in a dispute over using a sick day during last year’s Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl victory parade.

The state Public Employment Relations Commission has ruled the worker’s union can challenge a decision to deny him sick leave.

The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill reports the New Jersey School Boards Association addressed the “football flu” policy on Wednesday.

The group says the Burlington City employee missed work on three days around the time the parade was held, including the parade date. The worker, whose name wasn’t released, said he had the flu for several days during that time. It is unclear whether he went to the parade.

District Superintendent Patricia Doloughty had told employees two days earlier that anyone absent due to illness on the parade date had to provide a doctor’s note. School officials eventually denied the use of sick leave when the worker failed to produce a note.

“I did not see a physician due to the fact that they do not want people with the flu in their offices and it is a viral infection,” the worker told the school board. The worker also noted he was not asked to provide a doctor’s note for the other days he missed due to illness.

The worker’s union sought binding arbitration to resolve the issue. But the school board sought to block arbitration, contending it had a managerial right to deny the sick day.

“We have to make sure as a union on behalf of our members that when people are docked a sick day, it’s for a legitimate reason,” Steven Cohen, a lawyer for the union, said in a statement to the newspaper.

Jeffrey Caccese, a lawyer for the school district, told the newspaper the PERC ruling is being appealed. He declined further comment.

The state commission ruled that while boards of education can require a doctor’s note, it also found the application of any policy to deny sick leave is a “mandatorily negotiable topic,” so the matter can proceed to arbitration.

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