James F. Wildeman, James L. Crawford, Anthony J. Molloy, Jr., Forest N. Myers, Asst. Attys. Gen., for appellant.
Jay N. Abramowitch, Miller & Murray, Reading, for appellee.
Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, former C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Pomeroy, J., concurred in the result.
Appellee, Fabrication Specialists, Inc., is a nonunion shop employing about thirty-five workers. One of appellee's employees, Gary Vogel, filed a written charge of unfair labor practices with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, alleging appellee violated Section 6(1)(a), (b), (c), and (e) of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act. Vogel's allegations were based on his discharge on the day after he had organized and conducted a meeting with fellow employees for the purpose of forming a grievance committee. The Board issued a complaint to which was attached a copy of Vogel's charge of unfair labor practices.
After conducting a hearing, the Board found no violation of Section 6(1)(b) or 6(1)(e), but found that appellee had committed unfair labor practices in violation of Section 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Act, and ordered Vogel's reinstatement with back pay. This order was affirmed by the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County. The Commonwealth Court reversed the order of the Court of Common Pleas and we granted the Board's petition for allowance of appeal.
The Commonwealth Court accepted the Board's findings of fact, agreeing that there was substantial evidence to support the Board's conclusion that Vogel had been discharged because he had called a meeting of employees to discuss grievances with respect to working conditions. The Commonwealth Court held, however, that such conduct did not constitute a violation of either Section 6(1)(a) or 6(1)(c). According to the Commonwealth Court, the employer's conduct constituted an "unfair practice described" by Section 5 of the Act and not by any of the provisions of Section 6. According to the Commonwealth Court, however, appellee
could not be found guilty of violating Section 5 because it had never been charged with a violation of that Section. The Commonwealth Court therefore reversed the order of the Court of Common Pleas, although in doing so it indicated that had a violation of Section 5 been charged, it would have affirmed an order based on a violation of that section.
We reverse the decision of the Commonwealth Court, for in finding no violation of Section 6, the Court has misconstrued the plain meaning of the Act, and in finding a violation of Section 5 it has created an unfair labor practice where none exists.
The Commonwealth Court erroneously based its decision on Lancaster Yellow C & B v. PLRB, 371 Pa. 49, 88 A.2d 866 (1952). The Lancaster language relied on by the Commonwealth Court is as follows:
"Subsection (1) of Section 6 of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act of 1937, as amended, 43 P.S. § 211.6, under which the controversy arises, in six clauses, (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), and (f), defines unfair labor practices by the employer. . . .
Although the strict rules of pleading do not apply to proceedings before an administrative board, (Kochinsky v. Independent Pier Company, 157 Pa. Super.Ct. 15, 18, 41 A.2d 409,) the employer charged with an unfair labor practice is entitled to know which one of the six unfair labor practices enumerated in the act is the basis for the complaint just as the Union is entitled to be specifically apprised as to which one of the five unfair labor practices in the present act it or its constituents may be alleged to have violated together with the possible consequences of a finding of such specific violation." (Emphasis added.) 371 Pa. at 53 and 59, 88 A.2d at 867 and 868.
The Commonwealth Court correctly read Lancaster as requiring the employer to be specifically notified as to what Subsection of the Act has allegedly been violated. Lancaster, however, provides no support for the Commonwealth Court's conclusion that Section 5 of the Act describes
an unfair labor practice. On the contrary, Lancaster points out that Section 6 contains all of the unfair labor practices with which one can be charged. Lancaster held that an employer is entitled to know "which one of the six unfair labor practices enumerated in the act" is ...