Teacher Rice Notice Employment Lawyer

If you are a public employee or school teacher in New Jersey, you may have heard of the term “Rice Notice.” This is a type of protection provided to public employees under state law. It notifies them that an aspect of their employment is going to be a topic of discussion at an upcoming meeting of a public body, such as a school board. If you receive such a notice, there are certain actions you should take to protect your rights.

Rice Notices are related to New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act, also known as the Sunshine Law, which requires that most public meetings be open to the public in order to encourage transparency. The law provides for several exceptions. One of those exceptions is when a public body is discussing individual personnel matters. While the intent of this exception is to respect the privacy of the individual being discussed, it is possible that those employees might be denied the opportunity to participate.

To counter this problem, in 1977 a New Jersey appeals court decided, in Rice v. Union County Regional High School Board of Education, that public bodies planning to discuss personnel matters in private must notify each employee who is the subject of such discussion — in writing and at least 48 hours in advance — about the topic, time and place of the meeting. A Rice Notice must also advise the employee that they have the right to compel the public body to hold the meeting as an open meeting. If the public body fails to provide a required Rice Notice, any decisions made during the closed discussion of the employee may be invalidated.

The New Jersey courts have subsequently clarified that public bodies do not have to provide Rice Notices in advance of discussing personnel matters at a public meeting or when no actual discussion of the employee will take place in a closed meeting. For example, if a public body is simply approving an extension of an employment contract without further discussion, a Rice Notice would not be necessary.

Because Rice Notices only have to provide 48 hours of advance warning before a closed meeting, they require a quick response. If you are a public school teacher or public municipal employee and you receive a Rice Notice, you should consult with a New Jersey employment attorney as quickly as possible. Your attorney can review the matter to be discussed, decide whether a response is needed and prepare you to present testimony and other evidence at the meeting.

At Cashdan & Kane, PLLC, our employment attorneys have deep experience representing New Jersey public employees in personnel matters and disputes. Please call our Westfield office at 908-264-9331 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.