April 17, 1962
CONTINENTAL CAN COMPANY.
Appeals, Nos. 156 and 157, March T., 1962, from orders of Superior Court, April T., 1961, Nos. 57 and 58, affirming judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Feb. T., 1960, Nos. 185 and 306, in case of Thelma Stollar, Virginia Heiney, Anna K. Heatley et al. v. The Continental Can Company, Inc., and Shirley Mae Blouir, Corothy Richardson, Martha J. Provance et al. v. Same. Order reversed.
George B. Stegenga, for appellant.
Charles C. Hewitt, with him James B. Hecht, Barron P. McCune, and Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, and McCune and Greenlee, for appellee.
Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'brien, JJ.
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OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN
In these actions of assumpsit, the plaintiffs, female employees of the defendant-corporation, seek additional compensation allegedly due for work performed in the course of their employment. The court of common pleas sustained preliminary objections to the complaints in the nature of a demurrer and entered judgments for the defendant. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed. We granted allocatur.
For the purpose of this decision, all well pleaded facts in the complaints must be accepted as true:
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Sections 4(a) and 4(c) of the statute are separate and distinct. They apply to entirely different situations and are not inconsistent. The primary purpose of the act is to prevent discrimination in wage rates merely because of sex. Section 4(a) specifically states that "Any agreement between the employer and an employee to work for less than the wage to which such employee is entitled ... shall be no defense to such action." This provision was undoubtedly inserted with deliberate purpose and must be given effect.
We approve and adopt the following from the dissenting opinion of Judge MONTGOMERY of the Superior Court.
"The Statutory Construction Act, Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1019, art. IV, § 51, 46 PS 551, states in part: 'The object of all interpretation and construction of laws is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the Legislature. Every law shall be construed, if possible, to give effect to all its provisions. ...'
"To fail to give effect to all of the provisions of a statute or to give them an unreasonable or absurd construction violates the fundamental rules of statutory interpretation. Sherwood v. Elgart, 383 Pa. 110, 117 A.2d 899. The legislature may be assumed to have intended the entire statute to be effective and certain. Every law must be construed, if possible, to give effect to all of its provisions. Sterling v. Philadelphia, 378 Pa. 538, 106 A.2d 793; Lemoyne Borough Annexation Case, 176 Pa. Superior Ct. 38, 107 A.2d 149.
"Here consistent meaning can be given to both sections. The lower court assumes that the contract between the defendant employer and the members of the union is a waiver ab initio of the provision of the statute and that such waiver is a defense to any action as provided in section 4(c). However, the waiver referred to by the legislature must be construed to mean the waiver of a claim arising under the agreement. The
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agreement itself is the basis of liability of the employer to the employe, as it is in direct violation of the statute and as stated by the legislature it cannot of itself constitute a defense.
"Under section 4(c) the legislature has provided that after a claim has arisen under the Act, an employe or his representative can then waive or settle such claim and this subsequent agreement of waiver or settlement between the employer and the employe would be a bar to further claim or litigation.
"Consequently the provisions of the Act are not in conflict and the lower court erred in its conclusion that section 4(a) must yield to section 4(c), thereby in effect abrogating the plainly stated intention of the legislature. To hold otherwise would render the entire Act ineffectual in that the employer and the employe or his representative could bargain away the statutory prohibition of discrimination because of sex."
The further contention of the defendant-corporation that these actions are barred because the Pennsylvania Statute involved is superseded by federal law is without merit.
The order of the Superior Court affirming the judgments of the court of common pleas is reversed with a procedendo.