Justia Pennsylvania Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
FOP Fort Pitt v. City of Pgh
In 2003, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”) designated the City of Pittsburgh as a financially distressed municipality under the Municipal Financial Recovery Act (“Act 47”). The City’s collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) with Appellant Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 (the “Union”) expired on December 31, 2014. As the parties were unable to reach consensus on a new CBA, they entered into interest arbitration governed by the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act (“Act 111”). After an evidentiary hearing encompassing ten days of testimony before an Act 111 arbitration panel, the panel issued a final award covering years 2015-2018. The Award contained numbered factual findings one of which included a list of itemized findings relating to the City’s population, income, housing vacancy rate, and, most relevantly, the City’s police officer compensation as measured against other economically and demographically comparable subdivisions. The Union’s financial expert had testified in a prior matter in 2014 that the City’s police pay was above the median of a comparison group; the City’s police officers paid substantially lower contributions toward health insurance than other City employees for the same coverage level; and the Union’s own financial expert believed City police officers were paid competitively. The Union filed an appeal in the Commonwealth Court, contending that the Award deviated from the Plan by failing to ensure competitive compensation for police officers as required by the Plan. The Union argued that the court had jurisdiction to rule on its appeal per Section 252(e) of Act 47. Te Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined the Commonwealth Court properly held that the Union’s challenge to the Award fell outside the scope of Section 252(e). Accordingly, that court’s order quashing the parties’ appeals was affirmed. View "FOP Fort Pitt v. City of Pgh" on Justia Law
City of Arnold v. Wage Policy Committee
In an appeal by allowance, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review was whether, in the context of a grievance arbitration award, an arbitrator has subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a dispute between a union and a municipality arising out of a surviving spouse’s pension benefit, where the benefit was afforded to the surviving spouse statutorily and incorporated into the parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Pamela Cimino’s husband, Thomas J. Cimino, was a police officer for the City of Arnold, Pennsylvania (City) from July 1, 1990 until April 4, 2002. On April 4, 2002, Officer Cimino died off-duty of natural causes. At the time of his death, Officer Cimino had completed 11.77 years of service. The City issued Mrs. Cimino 142 consecutive monthly death benefit payments, from May 1, 2002 to February 1, 2014. However, in a 2014 compliance audit, the Commonwealth Auditor General’s Office determined that the City was incorrectly administering the death benefit. According to the Auditor General’s compliance audit, the City had been paying Mrs. Cimino twice as much as it should have under its interpretation of the applicable statute. The Wage Policy Committee of the City of Arnold Police Department (Union) initiated a grievance on behalf of Mrs. Cimino to dispute the 50% reduction in her death benefit pension payments. The Union followed the grievance procedure contained in the CBA between the City and the Union. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded a dispute as here was arbitrable under the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act (“Act 111”), 43 P.S. secs. 217.1-217.10, because the surviving spouse’s pension benefit was incorporated into the CBA. Accordingly, the Court reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court which held to the contrary. View "City of Arnold v. Wage Policy Committee" on Justia Law
City of Allentown v. Int’l Assoc. of Firefighters
The right of firefighters and police officers to collectively bargain for purposes of wages, hours, and working conditions was secured through the Police and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act, commonly known as Act 111. Appellant, the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 302 (“IAFF”), was the exclusive bargaining representative for the firefighters of Appellee, the City of Allentown (the “City”), for purposes of collective bargaining with the City. The City and the IAFF were parties to a seven-year collective bargaining agreement which ran from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2011. In this appeal by allowance, the issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was, in the context of an interest arbitration award, whether a provision requiring a certain minimum number of firefighters on duty per shift is a mandatory subject of bargaining or a non-bargainable managerial prerogative. The Court concluded that the number of required firefighters per shift was a mandatory subject of bargaining, and implicated managerial responsibilities, but did not unduly infringe upon those managerial rights, and, thus, could properly serve as a component of an interest arbitration award. The Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, which held to the contrary. View "City of Allentown v. Int'l Assoc. of Firefighters" on Justia Law
Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc.
A representative of Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., d/b/a Havencrest Nursing Center (Extendicare), executed an arbitration agreement with Anna Marie Taylor (“Decedent”) requiring the arbitration of claims arising from Decedent’s stay at the Extendicare facility. Following Decedent’s death, Daniel and William Taylor (“the Taylors”) brought wrongful death claims on behalf of themselves as wrongful death beneficiaries and survival claims on behalf of Decedent’s estate against Extendicare and two other defendants. Extendicare moved to bifurcate the wrongful death and survival actions, and to compel arbitration of Decedent’s survival claim pursuant to the arbitration agreement and the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The trial court relied upon Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 213(e) to deny Extendicare’s motion to bifurcate, and the Superior Court affirmed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to determine whether the FAA preempted the lower courts’ application of Rule 213(e) under the facts presented. Upon review, the Court concluded that the FAA preempted the application of Rule 213(e), and required arbitration of the survival claim against Extendicare. The Court therefore reversed the Superior Court, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc." on Justia Law
Michael G. Lutz Lodge v. City of Phila.
In this appeal by allowance, we consider the breadth of the authority of an interest arbitration panel acting pursuant to the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act. In 2009, the contract between appellee City of Philadelphia and appellant the Michael G. Lutz Lodge No. 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) expired, and the parties failed to negotiate a new one. The matter went to binding interest arbitration. An arbitration panel put a new collective bargaining agreement in place effective July 2009 to June 2013. One issue before the panel concerned advance notification and premium overtime for police officers for court appearances. The panel's authority came into question when it made decisions on the notification and overtime issues. The Supreme Court found that the interest arbitration panel's authority was limited to addressing issues properly submitted to the panel, or those questions reasonably subsumed within those issues. Here, the panel exceeded its authority by speaking to an issue that was neither bargained over, raised in prior related proceedings before the panel, nor reasonably subsumed within the issue that was properly before the panel. Accordingly, the Court reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court which affirmed the underlying interest arbitration award. View "Michael G. Lutz Lodge v. City of Phila." on Justia Law
Wert v. Manorcare of Carlisle
The decedent resided in Appellants’ long-term skilled nursing care facility between March and August, 2010. Due to the alleged abuse and neglect inflicted upon her throughout her stay, Decedent suffered a multitude of injuries and illnesses that eventually resulted in her death. Appellee filed suit claiming Appellants knowingly sacrificed the quality of care given to their residents. Relevant to this appeal, Appellants filed preliminary objections seeking to enforce an arbitration agreement which Appellee signed, along with general admission paperwork upon Decedent’s admission to the facility. Appellants appealed the Superior Court’s decision affirming, in relevant part, the trial court’s order overruling Appellants’ preliminary objections seeking to compel arbitration and reserving for trial the underlying negligence action filed by Appellee, daughter of the decedent, and executrix of Decedent’s estate. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court and remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Wert v. Manorcare of Carlisle" on Justia Law
City of Scranton v. Firefighters Local Union
Consolidating several appeals, the Supreme Court addressed the effect of a municipality's financial distress and recovery planning on an arbitration award agreed to pursuant to the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act (Act). For approximately twenty years, the City of Scranton has been designated a distressed municipality under the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act. Pursuant to the Recovery Act, the City has its Commonwealth-mandated financial advisors who assist in creating a financial recovery plan (essentially a budget). In the most recent collective bargaining agreements between the City of Scranton and its Police and Firefighter Unions expired at the close of 2002. Negotiations as to future terms and work conditions for union members resulted in impasses. Accordingly, pursuant to the Act, arbitrators were selected to establish appropriate terms and conditions. Throughout the arbitrations, the City maintained that the arbitrators lacked legal authority to award relief impinging on the City's financial recovery plan. The City attempted to resist paying the ensuing award that resulted from the arbitration. The Commonwealth Court found that it was required to vacate the awards, holding that they did not conform to the City's Recovery Plan and would result in increased financial and operational burdens on an already distressed municipality. The Unions appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court focused on the distinction between the terms "arbitration award" and "arbitration settlement": the City argued that it was not mandated to pay "awards" but "settlements." The Supreme Court found the term "settlement" ambiguous, and the plain meaning could include the "award" given by the arbitrators in this case. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Commonwealth Court's order that the award negatively impacted the City's Recovery Plan. View "City of Scranton v. Firefighters Local Union" on Justia Law