Thalia Mendoza is a corrections officer employed by the Hudson County, New Jersey Department of Corrections. Mendoza was the subject of a six-month suspension without pay for neglect of duty and insubordination due to her failure to provide the Department with a timely written report of her arrest and supporting documentation regarding the disposition of the criminal charges against her.
An appeals court in New Jersey reversed the suspension. The Court found that “Correction officers are subject to the Department’s Custody Staff Rules and Regulations Manual. One section of the Manual requires a custody staff employee such as Mendoza to ‘report any arrest, or receipt of any summons received from a law enforcement agency or court, and subsequent disposition, including conviction, to the Internal Affairs Unit.’
“Mendoza orally notified both her supervisor and Internal Affairs of her off-duty arrest within 24 hours and that she kept the Department apprised of all developments in her case thereafter, to include submitting a copy of the downgraded charges to IA. The Manual does not clearly and unambiguously state that the report of an arrest must be in writing. The Manual defines ‘report’ as: ‘A written or oral communication that relates to Department matters.’
“Neither the administrative law judge nor the civil service commission addressed the clear and unambiguous definition of ‘report’ contained in the Manual. Having reported her arrest within the meaning of the word ‘report’ set forth in the Manual, the charge of failing to timely report her arrest cannot be sustained as a matter of law.”
In re Mendoza, 2013 WL 4525630 (N.J. App. 2013).