Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in case of Human Relations Commission of the City of Allentown v. International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, Local Union No. 111 and the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, No. 78-C-768.
Charles W. Johnston, Jr., Handler and Gerber, P.C., for appellants.
Jack I. Kaufman, Assistant City Solicitor, with him Kathryn Wohlsen Mayer, Assistant City Solicitor, for appellee.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 231]
The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, Local Union No. 111 (Union) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, which affirmed an order of the Allentown Human Relations Commission (Commission). We reverse.
On June 28, 1977, Debra Werner and Alice Peters filed complaints with the Commission,*fn1 alleging that they were pregnant and that the Union's health and welfare plan, which did not treat pregnancy claims the same as other disabilities, discriminated against them because of their sex. After several hearings, the Commission concluded that the Union had violated the Commission's ordinance prohibiting sex discrimination. The lower court agreed and this appeal followed.
The Union argues that Section 514 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1144, expressly preempts the Commission's regulation of the Union's benefit plan and that, therefore, the Commission was without jurisdiction to decide the matter.*fn2 The Commission, while recognizing ERISA's broad preemption, nevertheless argues that ERISA was not intended to preempt state fair employment laws.
We recognize that there is a split of authority among those courts which have addressed this issue.*fn3
[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 232]
Although our Superior Court has recently determined that ERISA does not preempt state fair employment laws,*fn4 we must conclude, after careful reflection, that the reasoning of those courts advocating preemption are more persuasive.
Section 514(a) of ERISA expressly provides that "the provisions of this subchapter . . . shall supersede any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan described in [29 U.S.C. § 1003(a)] and not exempt under [29
[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 233]
U.S.C. § 1003(b)]." (Emphasis added.) "State law" is defined in 29 U.S.C. § 1144(c)(1) as follows: "The term 'State law' includes all laws, decisions, rules, regulations, or other State action having the effect of law, of any State." "State" is defined in 29 U.S.C. § 1144(c)(2) as follows: "The term 'State' includes a State, any political subdivisions thereof, or any agency or instrumentality of either, which purports to regulate, directly or indirectly, the terms and conditions of employee benefit plans covered by this ...