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The only limitations, other than contractual or statutory, upon the right to discharge public employees are founded on constitutionally protected interests, such as freedom of speech.
Donald J. English was a supervisor in the morgue section of the Department of Anatomy of the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. After he was requested to assist in a different department, he failed to ensure that there was a proper identification of bodies and accurate record keeping in the morgue department. A hearing officer of the College determined that English was guilty of misconduct, and the College’s board of trustees discharged English on the finding. The appellate court affirmed the finding of misconduct but lessened the penalty to a one-year suspension without pay.
Was the action of the Board of Trustees in discharging English within its prerogative?
The court modified the appellate court judgment by reinstating the discharge. The court noted that N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:64G-6 provided the College’s board of trustees the power to remove English in accordance with an at-will employment relationship. English was not protected by a civil service classification, statutory tenure, or a collective bargaining agreement, so the discharge was within the prerogative of respondent's trustees. Furthermore, while just cause was not required, the record showed its existence.