Recently, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) issued a Final Order indicating that members of a volunteer fire company which provided coverage to a local borough were actually Borough employees.   In doing so, both the hearing examiner who issued the Proposed Decision and Order and the Board determined that it did not matter that the

Yeah, I know, crazy right? Here is the story. Apparently the Union did not think so. When the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ("Union") and the City of Philadelphia ("City") could not reach terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, they submitted the dispute to binding interest arbitration.

The Union was seeking,

The United States Supreme Court has issued a decision further clarifying protected speech under the First Amendment. In Lane v. Franks, et al., the Court analyzed whether a public employee, testifying under subpoena, was entitled to First Amendment protection when his testimony was outside of the scope of his job duties.
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In a case which will interest public and private sector employers alike, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 87 v. Pa. Labor Relations Bd., the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is poised to address important issues regarding the subcontracting of public sector bargaining unit work to private sector contractors.
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In a recent decision, a class of correctional officers at a county correctional facility filed a class action lawsuit alleging that they were not compensated for time spent working before and after their scheduled shifts. The plaintiffs sought damages under both the Fair Labor Standards Act and Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act. The Court issued a decision that (1) dismissed the plaintiffs’ PMWA claims, but (2) granted the plaintiffs’ motion to conditionally certify a collective action based on their claims under the FLSA. The Court concluded that government entities were not covered by the PMWA and dismissed the plaintiffs’ state law claims. However, the Court also held that plaintiffs met their initial burden of showing that the proposed class members were similarly situated and conditionally certified the class for purposes of an FLSA collective action.
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It seems like we have been spending a lot of time discussing successful appeals of arbitration decisions lately, which is been a good thing for Pennsylvania employers. Recently, we reported on two cases in which an employer successfully appealed a negative arbitration decision. Historically, such successful appeals have been difficult. However, the current trend continued when

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently confirmed that sexual harassment is against public policy. Seems like a no brainer, right? The court seemed to agree, stating that the decision in Phila. Housing Authority v. AFSCME, District Council 33, Local 934 [WARNING EXPLICIT] (pdf) was not “a difficult case.” So, why did it take over a decade to reach this conclusion?

Let’s look at what happened.
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A recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision has made clear that supervisors in public agencies may be subject to individual liability under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The court previously has held that public employers, private employers, and supervisors in the private sector may be liable for FMLA violations. Now, for the first time, the court has extended FMLA liability to supervisors in the public sector.

The facts in the case will probably seem eerily familiar to many of you. But the result is scary for public sector supervisors, who now may be personally liable for back pay and other damage awards where their individual actions and decisions violate the FMLA.
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Many watched intently in early February as the political theater unfolded in Madison, Wisconsin when Republican Governor Scott Walker proposed legislation to limit the collective bargaining rights of most state government employees. In a matter of days, the Capitol would be swarming with protesters and demonstrators on both sides of the issue. What followed was weeks of sit-ins in the Capitol, a mass walkout by all 14 Democratic State Senators to block a vote on the proposed law, the unprecedented recall elections of 6 Republican and 3 Democratic state lawmakers and a bitterly fought campaign to unseat an incumbent State Supreme Court Justice widely viewed as a pro-Walker.

Observers on both sides generally agree though that the movement to reform public sector collective bargaining rights has invigorated the debate on the role of unions in today’s uncertain economic climate.
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This post was contributed by James Welch, a Summer Associate with McNees Wallace and Nurick LLC. Mr. Welch will begin his third year of law school at William & Mary School of Law in the fall, and he expects to earn his J.D. in May 2012.

In Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri, 113 S.Ct. 2488 (2011) (PDF), the United States Supreme Court clarified that, although the Petition Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides public employees separate and distinct protections, those protections are essentially the same as those afforded by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.  This is good news for public sector employers, who already face a slew of additional concerns in the area of employee discipline. 

The Petition Clause has been trendy for public employees lately, but its contours have been somewhat unclear.  Generally, the Petition Clause protects the rights of individuals to petition the government to seek redress of grievances.  The courts have held that this provision protects public employees who file grievances against their employers.  In other words, public employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee who has filed a grievance or other complaint. 

However, like other protections afforded to employees, there are limits to the protections afforded by the Petition Clause.  The issue in Guarnieri was, what types of grievances/complaints are protected? 


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