1. The case involves a day school, Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway, that terminated a teacher because the teacher's religious outlook did not match the school's. (Presumably, the teacher was more right wing in his religious observance, perhaps haredi. The school is Modern Orthodox and trends to the left religiously.)
3. The rabbis who acted as rabbinic judges on the beit din are leading right wing Modern Orthodox rabbis: Mordechai Willig, Ronald Warburg and Steven Pruzansky. (Pruzansky is also an attorney.)
4. One of those rabbis, Mordechai Willig, who is a rosh yeshiva (rabbinic school dean) at Yeshiva University, previously abused his authority as a rabbinic judge. Willig did so to protect now-convicted child sexual and physical abuser Rabbi Baruch Lanner.
In a decision first published today in the NY Law Journal, the Kings County Supreme court concluded:
After a careful review of the complete record, including the entire court file, the Court determines that the Beth Din Award is irrational, clearly exceeds the arbitrators' power and is violative of public policy.
Here is the court's reasoning underlying that decision:
…[I]t is clear that the Beth Din award dated July 10, 2007 and modified on August 28, 2007, must be vacated on several grounds. The Beth Din award was totally irrational; the Beth Din exceeded a specifically enumerated limitation on its authority; and the award is violative of a strong public policy.
The Beth Din awarded Petitioner $50,000 in back pay for the 2006-2007 calendar year. The Beth Din then reinstated Petitioner to a tenured position for a set salary of $100,000. While Respondent does not dispute that Petitioner was, at one time, a tenured teacher, the Petitioner's employment was governed by the teacher's contract which expired at the end of the 2005-2006 academic year. Once the contract terminated, all of the terms and provisions contained in the Contract, including the "tenure" provisions, terminated as well. The Beth Din's determination rendered essentially forces Respondent, an "at will" private employer, to employ Petitioner, who, in the school's discretion, has a clear difference in Hashkafah, religious philosophy, from Respondent's administration, for an indefinite tenure. Furthermore, the salary set forth by the Beth Din of $100,000 is arbitrary, unfounded and irrational, as the base salary, as set forth by the expired employment contract, was $54,000. As such, this award is burdensome, unrealistic and wholly irrational.
Secondly, by retaining indefinite jurisdiction, the Beth Din exceeded a specifically enumerated limitation on its authority, as set forth by the parties in their own agreement to arbitrate.
Lastly, the award is violative of public policy. The Beth Din's ruling sets a precedent that will impact and limit the ability of private schools to make and enforce routine employment decisions, as the award compels Respondent to reinstate an employee it does not wish to employ. It is noted by the Court, that a severance package, which amounted to Chodesh L'Shanah was offered by the Respondent upon termination of the Petitioner, which was rejected. Furthermore, the difficulty set forth by the determination of the salary at an amount exceedingly greater than Petitioner's co-workers is counterproductive to a harmonious and productive work environment.
As there has been no allegation that the arbitrators award was the result of corruption, fraud or misconduct nor that the arbitrator was partial to either side. As such, the Court need not address such issues.
Here is the entire decision as a PDF file: