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WEST MIDDLESEX AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/06/78)

decided: December 6, 1978.

WEST MIDDLESEX AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, PETITIONER,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION AND VICKIE VEE PETERSON, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in case of Vicki Vee Peterson v. West Middlesex School District, Docket No. E-5642.

COUNSEL

P. Raymond Bartholomew, with him Cusick, Madden, Joyce and McKay, for petitioner.

James D. Pagliaro, Assistant General Counsel, with him Sanford Kahn, General Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt, DiSalle and Craig. Judges Wilkinson, Jr. and MacPhail did not participate. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 59]

Petitioner West Middlesex School District appeals from a final order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (Commission) (June 3, 1977 -- Dkt. No. E-5642). The Commission found that the school district engaged in discriminatory maternity leave practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, as amended, 43 P.S. ยง 955(a) (the Act), and

[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 60]

    ordered the district to pay complainant Vicki Vee Peterson $4,100.00 in back wages and $192.00 for lost benefits.

The facts are not in dispute. Complainant was an English teacher in the West Middlesex School District during the 1971-1972 school term. The Board of School Directors (Board) approved her request for maternity leave, which began at the end of the 1972 Spring semester.

By letter dated December 14, 1972, complainant requested that the Board allow her to return to her former position on the first school day of the next semester, in January 1973. A physician certified that she was physically able to resume employment as of December 7, 1972. At the Board's meeting on January 8, 1973, her request to return to work for that semester was refused. She did return to her teaching position in September, 1973.

The maternity leave policy actually in effect at the time of complainant's leave, adopted September 13, 1971, stated:

The maternity leave shall be for one calendar year beginning with the first day of the leave, except the employee may not begin her duties again until the first day of the semester or school year following the completion of the calendar year of the maternity leave. . . . in unusual cases the length of the maternity leave may be shortened at the discretion of the Board. (Emphasis added.)*fn1

[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 61]

This policy was apparently applied to complainant according to its terms, requiring a minimum leave of twelve months for maternity. Resumption of work was deferred until the next school year, rather than the next semester.

The school district urges this Court to reverse the Commission's finding that its maternity re-employment policy was discriminatory. The district contends that its maternity re-employment policy was consistent with complainant's rights under the Act and guidelines in effect on December 19, ...


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