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JOAN L. MURPHY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/09/85)

decided: January 9, 1985.

JOAN L. MURPHY, LORRAINE R. MASON, EDITH L. MCGRODY, MARIE PEKALA, HENRIETTA ELLIOTT, CATHERINE BERES, VIRGINIA KNOWLES, ANN JACYSZYN, PEGGY FELMEY, ELEANOR NEYER, DORIS YOCUM & ELIZABETH MCNASBY, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANTS,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION, AND CROWN CORK AND SEAL COMPANY, INC., AND SHEET METAL PRODUCTION WORKERS' UNION, LOCAL 266, APPELLEES



No. 2 E.D. Appeal Dkt. 1984, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 1348 C.D. 1982, affirming the Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission at Docket Nos. E-4027 and E-4249, Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Nix, C.j., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Mcdermott

[ 506 Pa. Page 552]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellants have brought this appeal to challenge an order of the Commonwealth Court which affirmed a decision of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

In February of 1970, eleven female employees of Crown Cork and Seal, Inc. (Company) went to the offices of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to complain that the Company, with the assistance and acquiescence of their union, the Sheet Metal Production Workers Union-Local 266 (Union), was discriminating against them and all other female production employees, on the basis of sex. At this time these women voiced their displeasure over the Company's and Union's actions, but no one among them filed an individual complaint.

In April, 1970, one of the eleven women, Mary Martin, filed an individual complaint. However, this complaint was withdrawn in October of that same year.

In December 1970, based in part on the information brought to its attention by the above parties, the Commission, on its own motion, filed a "Commissioner's Complaint" against the Company and the Union. This complaint consisted of two pages and made general allegations concerning "unlawful employment practices."*fn1 There was no

[ 506 Pa. Page 553]

    mention in this complaint of any of the individual complainants.

On June 11, 1971, appellant Elizabeth McNasby filed an individual complaint, in which she alleged that she was "laid off without regard to her seniority from her position of inspector, because of her sex."*fn2 This complaint was eventually joined with the 1970 Commissioner's complaint for purposes of administrative processing.

In April, 1972, the Commission, acting in accordance with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Act),*fn3 issued a finding of probable cause and initiated conciliation efforts. See 43 P.S. § 959. By mid 1972, counsel for both the Union and the Company had entered appearances.

On October 16, 1974, this Court handed down a decision in Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission v. U.S. Steel Corp., 458 Pa. 559, 325 A.2d 910 (1974). Therein we held that a Commissioner's complaint that merely stated general allegations of discriminatory practices was invalid, in that such a complaint failed to satisfy the "particularity" requirement of Section 9 of the Act, 43 P.S. § 959. This decision was relevant in the present context since the Commissioner's complaint which instituted this action was substantially the same as the one dismissed in U.S. Steel.

On October 27, 1975, the Commission filed a second complaint against the Company and the Union. This second complaint, designated as an "Amended Complaint," set forth detailed allegations of unlawful sex discrimination, and listed the following women as individual complainants: Eleanor Neyer, Joan Murphy, Sarah Cooper, Margaret Felmey,

[ 506 Pa. Page 554]

Lorraine Mason, Virginia Knowles, Doris Yocum, Edith McGrody, Marie Pekala, Theresa Cheplick, Henrietta Hunter, Ann Jacyzyn and Theresa Reed. Despite having had no contact with the Commission for almost five years, these women had been contacted by investigators of the Commission for the purpose of filing this "Amended Complaint," and were requested to file affidavits in support of the discriminatory charges. However, at the time this second complaint was filed only Theresa Reed was employed by the Company.*fn4

This "Amended Complaint" was also joined with the original complaint (and the McNasby complaint) for purposes of administrative processing. Thereafter, on April 19, 1976, a finding of probable cause was made by the Commission staff.

Responding to this "Amended Complaint" the Company filed an answer and new matter. The Union declined to file an answer, but submitted a letter indicating that they did not believe that an answer was required.

Pursuant to statute the Commission undertook conciliation efforts, which failed; and a public hearing was directed to be held before a panel of Commissioners. Due to extensive prehearing litigation no hearing was held until October 30, 1978. Once begun, however, the hearings required 37 days.

Prior to these hearings, in February 1977, the Company had filed a motion to dismiss the "Amended Complaint." In the memorandum of law accompanying this motion, the Company argued that the original 1970 complaint lacked sufficient particularity, and therefore both complaints should be dismissed. The Commission reserved its ruling on this motion pending completion of the public hearing.

On September 29, 1981, the Commissioners issued their "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of ...


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