In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division, Superior Court of New Jersey upheld the decision of the Merit System Board, New Jersey Department of Personnel, that the appellant’s failure to file his appeal of the Final Notice of Disciplinary Action within twenty (20) days from the issuance of the Final Notice of Disciplinary Action barred him from appealing said charges on any level.
In the Matter of Santiago, New Jersey Department of Corrections, 25-2-1072, App. Div., the Appellant was employed by the New Jersey Department of Corrections as a Senior Corrections Officer. The Appellant waived his Departmental or Agency Hearing pertaining to the Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action that charged him with conduct unbecoming a public employee. His attorney requested the issuance of a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action subsequent to the waiver however the Appellant claimed that he never received said final notice despite the contentions of the New Jersey Department of Corrections that the same was issued. Appellant waited five (5) months prior to pursuing the appeal and the Merit System Board refused to accept the appeal and transmit the case to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law for a De Novo hearing.
The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Merit System Board stating that the Appellant’s delay of five (5) months in issuing his appeal was well beyond the allotted twenty (20) day period and his removal from employment was upheld.
The bottom line is that it is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that his or her appeal of any major disciplinary action is perfected within 20 days of the issuance of the Final Notice of disciplinary Action. Excuses such as the one offered by Santiago where five (5 ) months lapse before an appeal is filed will not be accepted nor recognized by the Courts.