NEWARK, N.J. - The State Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Garden State Parkway must reinstate a toll taker who was fired after shooting paintballs at a van during a road rage incident on the highway.
An arbitrator had ruled that Jason Glassey should be reinstated after an 11-month unpaid suspension, but the highway operator had persuaded an appellate court to uphold the firing.
The ruling by New Jersey's highest court reverses that decision and allows Glassey to keep his job.
The 5-0 ruling held that courts can vacate an arbitration decision if the award, not the conduct, violates a public policy found in a law, a regulation or court ruling.
The executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the parkway, said he was "extremely disappointed" by the ruling.
"Unfortunately, the court chose, in our opinion, to place the sanctity of arbitration above the safety of our motorists," said the official, Michael Lapolla.
A lawyer for Glassey said he expects that Glassey will return to work. "It's really a great victory for the whole labor arbitration process, because it's going to narrow the public policy exception," said lawyer Leonard C. Schiro.
Glassey has already served the 11-month unpaid suspension and was cleared for duty following a psychiatric examination, his lawyer said.
Glassy was working at the Cape May toll plaza, making $44,452 a year, when the incident happened in November 2003. Glassey, who was 31 at the time, was still in his uniform and admitted that he fired at least four shots at a van when he got stuck behind the slower-moving vehicle in the left lane, authorities said. He struck the front windshield and passenger window.
The van driver alerted state police, and Glassey was stopped by a trooper soon after.