Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Section 306(a.2) of the Workers' Compensation Act allowed employers to demand that a claimant undergo an impairment -rating evaluation (IRE), during which a physician must determine the "degree of impairment" that is due to the claimant's compensable injury. In order to make this assessment, the Act required physicians to apply the methodology set forth in "the most recent edition" of the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. In consolidated appeals, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether this mandate violated the constitutional requirement that all legislative power "be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives." In 2007, Mary Ann Protz sustained a work -related knee injury. Her employer, Derry Area School District (Derry), voluntarily began paying temporary total disability benefits. An IRE physician evaluated Protz and assigned to her a 10% impairment rating based upon the Sixth Edition of the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (the Guides). Because Protz's impairment rating was less than 50%, Derry filed a modification petition seeking to convert Protz's disability status from total to partial -the effect of which would be to limit the duration that Protz could receive workers' compensation benefits. A Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) granted the petition. Protz appealed to the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board, arguing that the General Assembly unconstitutionally delegated to the AMA the authority to establish criteria for evaluating permanent impairment. The Board rejected Protz's constitutional argument and affirmed the WCJ's decision. The Commonwealth Court reversed the Board, finding that the Act lacked "adequate standards to guide and restrain the AMA's exercise" of its delegated power to create a methodology for grading impairment. Derry and Protz appealed. The Supreme Court concluded the Pennsylvania Constitution prevented the General Assembly from passing off to another branch or body de facto control over matters of policy. The Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court's holding that Section 306(a.2) violated the non-delegation doctrine, however, found that Section 306(a.2) was unconstitutional in its entirety. View "Protz v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this matter was whether a recently terminated employee was an "employee" and, thus, entitled to inspect her personnel file, according to the Inspection of Employment Records Law ("the Personnel Files Act" or "the Act"). Reading the Personnel Files Act according to its plain terms, the Court concluded that former employees, who were not laid off with re-employment rights and who are not on a leave of absence, have no right to access their personnel files pursuant to the Act, regardless of how quickly following termination they request to do so. The Court reversed the contrary holding of the Commonwealth Court. View "Thomas Jefferson Univ Hosp v. Dept of Lab. & Ind." on Justia Law

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In a discretionary appeal, the issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court centered on whether a home rule municipality could amend its home rule charter to eliminate mandatory subjects of bargaining as defined by the Police and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act ("Act 111"), the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act ("PLRA"), and applicable case law. Appellant, the Fraternal Order of Police, Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 (“FOP”) was the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the police officers of Appellee, the City of Pittsburgh (“City”), pursuant to Act 111 and the PLRA. The City was subject to the Policemen’s Civil Service Act, which requires officer applicants be residents of the city at the time of application and throughout their term of employment. The General Assembly repealed the residency mandate in 2012. The parties met to bargain the residency issue, but were unable to reach an agreement. The matter went to arbitration, and pending those proceedings, the Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution to place a referendum on the upcoming general election ballot asking the voters whether the City’s home rule charter should be amended to require all City employees and officials, including police and fire personnel, to maintain their domicile within the City. Voters approved the home rule charter amendment in 2013. The arbitration panel issued a Supplemental Interest Arbitration Award, which provided that the City-only residency requirement would immediately discontinue and be replaced with a different residency requirement: officers would be required to reside within a twenty-five air-mile radius from the Pittsburgh City-County Building. The City sought review with the court of common pleas, seeking to vacate the arbitration supplemental award. The Supreme Court found that to ensure that home rule municipalities would not abrogate the right of police and firefighters to collectively bargain, the General Assembly enacted Section 9 of Act 111, specifically providing that the act was applicable to every political subdivision in the Commonwealth, regardless of its adoption of a home rule charter. Because the home rule charter amendment changed or modified Act 111 by removing residency as a subject of collective bargaining, it violated Section 2962(e) of the Home Rule Charter law. Thus, based strictly on Section 2962 of the Home Rule Charter Law, the FOP was entitled to relief. The trial court affirming the supplemental interest arbitration award directing officers be required to reside within a twenty-five mile radius from the City-County Building was reinstated. View "City of Pittsburgh v. Fraternal Order of Police Ft. Pitt Ldg. 1" on Justia Law

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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

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This case arose from the unemployment compensation claim filed by appellee Gary Powell. The Unemployment Compensation Service Center determined appellee was ineligible to receive benefits pursuant to Section 402(b) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (the UC Law) because he voluntarily quit his job with Joe Krentzman & Sons (employer), without “cause of a necessitous and compelling nature.” The Supreme Court granted discretionary review to consider whether an attorney who has been suspended from the practice of law by the Supreme Court could represent a claimant in unemployment compensation proceedings. A divided three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court determined the claimant was entitled to his choice of representative, even if that representative was a suspended attorney, and remanded for a new hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision to remand, but reversed the Commonwealth Court’s holding that a suspended attorney may represent claimants in unemployment compensation proceedings. View "Powell v. UCBR" on Justia Law

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The issue in this workers’ compensation appeal was ultimately whether a notice of compensation payable closely circumscribes the range of health-related conditions to be considered in impairment rating evaluations. The Supreme Court held that physician-examiners must exercise independent professional judgment to make a whole-body assessment of “the degree of impairment due to the compensable injury,” which discernment cannot be withheld on the basis that the physician-examiner believes the undertaking is a more limited one. The order of the Commonwealth Court with respect to this issue was reversed, and the matter remanded for reinstatement of the finding of invalidity rendered by the Worker's Compensation Appeal Board. View "Duffey v. WCAB" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court’s review centered on whether, pursuant to section 8327(b)(2) of the Public School Employees’ Retirement Code, 24 Pa.C.S.A. 8327(b)(2), the school district that originally approved the creation of a charter school was financially responsible, after the revocation of the charter, for the charter school’s prior failure to make payments to its employees’ retirement fund. The Court surmised the question hinged upon whether unpaid retirement contributions constituted an outstanding obligation of the closed charter school. The Court concluded that the deficiency resulting from the failure to make the payments was indeed an outstanding financial obligation of a closed charter school and therefore, pursuant to section 17-1729-A(i) of the Charter School Law, 24 P.S. section 17-1729-A(i), the school district could not be held liable for the amounts owed. View "Pocono Mtn. Sch. Dist. v. Dept. of Educ." on Justia Law

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In this discretionary appeal, the issue presented for the Supreme Court's review was a narrow issue of whether Law Enforcement Health Benefits, Inc. (“LEHB”), a nonprofit corporation that administered health and welfare benefits to Philadelphia police officers as part of the union’s collective bargaining agreement, was authorized under the Pennsylvania Nonprofit Corporation Law (“NCL”), as well as its Articles of Incorporation, to spend some of its corporate funds to pay for a postcard sent to its members endorsing a candidate in a union election. The Supreme Court found that nothing in the NCL nor the corporation’s Articles prohibited the action at issue and that LEHB’s action was sufficiently related to its corporate purpose to be permissible. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decision of the Commonwealth Court which held otherwise, and reinstated the trial court’s order dismissing the declaratory judgment action against LEHB. View "Zampogna v. Law Enforcement Health Benefits, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania State Education Association was an organization made up of 150,000 public school teachers, support staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, secretaries and teachers’ aides. In 2009, the organization and fourteen of its member public school employees (collectively, “PSEA”) filed suit against the Office of Open Records, its Executive Director, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (collectively, the “OOR”), seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent the release of home addresses of public school employees, and a declaration that the home addresses of public school employees are exempt from public access. PSEA asserted that numerous school districts had received requests for the names and addresses of public school employees, and some had already released this information. Contending that the public school employees lacked any adequate procedural remedy to prevent the release of private information protected by the Pennsylvania Constitution. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review involved an examination of the scope of the “personal security” exception to disclosure under the Right to Know Law (“RTKL”), and, more specifically, whether school districts must disclose the home addresses of public school employees. Under the prior Right to Know Act, (repealed, effective January 1, 2009) (“RTKA”), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had on three occasions ruled that certain types of information, including home addresses, implicated the right to privacy under Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and thus required a balancing to determine whether the right to privacy outweighs the public’s interest in dissemination. "Our task here is to determine whether this analysis continues to obtain under the RTKL. We hold that it does." View "Pennsylvania State Ed. Assoc. v. Pennsylania" on Justia Law

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Lansdale Borough Police Officer George Johnson received a subpoena to attend a preliminary hearing; his attendance at the hearing was critical as he had conducted the field sobriety tests relating to a criminal defendant’s charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. Without requesting a continuance or notifying anyone of his inability to attend, Johnson failed to appear at the preliminary hearing, resulting in the dismissal of the criminal charges. Police Chief Robert McDyre met with Johnson to determine why he missed the preliminary hearing. When Chief McDyre asked why he failed to appear at the hearing, Johnson responded that he had forgotten about the hearing as he had been distracted because his son had been bitten by the neighbor’s pitbull five days prior, despite having been given notice of the hearing. Johnson told his Chief that he was attempting to reinstate the criminal charges by informing both the district court and the assistant district attorney that he had missed the preliminary hearing, but not because he forgot that it was scheduled, but because he was sick. Noting that the officer's reasoning for missing the hearing changed, Chief McDyre placed Johnson on administrative leave. The Chief later recommended that Johnson's employment be terminated. Johnson appealed. Based on his prior disciplinary history, his failure to appear at the preliminary hearing, and his false statements to the court and the assistant district attorney, the Civil Service Commission denied Officer Johnson’s appeal of his termination. The trial court affirmed the Commission's rulings on two charges and reversed on two others. The court ultimately reversed Johnson's termination. In their appeal to the Commonwealth Court, Lansdale Borough and the Lansdale Borough Civil Service Commission contended that the trial court erred in conducting its substantial evidence review by rejecting the Commission’s factual findings that were supported by the record and by modifying Officer Johnson’s termination to a thirty-day suspension. Having determined that the Borough Code affords the trial court de novo review of the Commission’s adjudication, the Commonwealth Court concluded that the trial court acted within its statutory authority when it rejected the Commission’s conclusions on charges three and four. The Supreme Court granted allowance of appeal to determine whether a trial court’s standard of review of an adjudication of a municipal civil service commission where no new evidence was presented on appeal was governed by the Borough Code, which has been interpreted as providing for de novo review, or by the Local Agency Law, which provided for a limited appellate review under those circumstances. The Supreme Court held that when the two statutes are read in pari materia, "it becomes clear that a limited appellate standard of review applies. Accordingly, we respectfully reverse the order of the Commonwealth Court, which held that de novo review was appropriate, and remand the matter for further proceedings." View "Johnson v. Lansdale Boro." on Justia Law