Appeal from the Order of the Arbitrator in the Matter of the Arbitration between Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Social Services Union Local 668, Service Employees' International Union, AFL-CIO, Discharge of Jodi R. Salvati, Case No. 81-1744, DPW 81-855.
Bruce M. Ludwig, with him Robert A. Sloan, Ste phen A. Sheller & Associates, for petitioners.
Frank A. Fisher, Assistant Counsel, with him John D. Raup, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Blatt, Doyle and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 127]
This appeal takes the form of a Petition for Review of an Arbitrator's decision. Petitioner, Joint Bargaining Committee of the Pennsylvania Social Services Union, is the collective bargaining representative for certain employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Respondent, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a "public employer" as defined by Section 301 of the Public Employe Relations Act, Act of July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, as amended, 43 P.S. § 1101.301(1).
On April 1, 1981, Jodi Salvati, employed as an Income Maintenance Worker II for the Berks County Board of Assistance, Department of Public Welfare, was arrested on various criminal charges including felony charges related to the possession and delivery of controlled substances. On April 2, 1981 her supervisor, having confirmed reports of her arrest, notified Salvati of her suspension from employment for thirty days.*fn1 When the criminal charges were not resolved within the thirty days, Salvati was discharged. Salvati then appealed her discharge under the collective bargaining agreement and pursued arbitration. At a hearing before Arbitrator Gladys Gershenfeld, this grievance was denied and the Arbitrator found that the discharge was for just cause. Petitioner seeks review of that decision.
The basis of Petitioner's argument is that the Arbitrator exceeded her authority by imposing a just cause standard which was outside the essence of her
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 128]
labor contract. We disagree and, for the following reasons, affirm the Arbitrator's decision.
This Court's scope of review of an arbitrator's decision is limited. Judicial review of an arbitrator's decision is restricted by the "essence test" wherein the reviewing court must initially determine if the terms of the collective bargaining agreement encompass the subject matter of the dispute. The court's inquiry ends once it is determined that the issue, properly defined, is within the terms of the agreement. West Chester Area School District v. West Chester Area Education Association, 68 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 469, 449 A.2d 824 (1982).
The Arbitrator here began her evaluation with Salvati's employment contract. The pertinent part of that contract reads as follows:
The Employer shall not demote, suspend, discharge or take any disciplinary action against an employee without ...