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JUDITH R. GRIM v. WEST CHESTER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (07/29/87)

decided: July 29, 1987.

JUDITH R. GRIM, PETITIONER
v.
WEST CHESTER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education, in case of Judith R. Grim v. West Chester Area School District, Sick Leave Appeal No. 4-84, dated March 3, 1986.

COUNSEL

Leonard V. Tenaglia, with him, Lyn B. Schoenfeld, Richard, DiSanti, Hamilton, Gallagher and Paul, for petitioner.

Susan J. Craig, with her, Ross A. Unruh, Randall C. Schauer and Mary Ann Rossi, MacElree, Harvey, Gallagher, O'Donnell & Featherman, Ltd., for respondent.

Judges Colins and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 108 Pa. Commw. Page 85]

Judith R. Grim (Petitioner) appeals from an order of the Secretary of Education holding that she was only entitled to one sick leave day for the 1983-84 school year because she voluntarily chose not to work after her childbearing disability ended. We affirm.

Petitioner is a professional employee of the West Chester Area School District. She became pregnant during the 1982-83 school year. At the end of that year she had accumulated eight sick leave days. On August 21, 1983, she delivered her child. Her doctor certified her as disabled due to pregnancy until October 3, 1983. At the end of her pregnancy disability, Petitioner made a voluntary decision to take the remainder of the 1983-84 school year as a childrearing leave.

The school district paid Petitioner, during her pregnancy disability, for the eight sick leave days she had accumulated at the end of the 1982-83 school year, but refused to credit and pay her for any sick leave days for the 1983-84 school year. The school district's sick leave policy prorated the 10 annual sick leave days required by section 1154 of the School Code of 1949 (School Code)*fn1 over the 10 month school term (September through June). Teachers were credited one day per month if they were working or prevented from working by an involuntary disability.

Petitioner appealed the school district's decision not to credit and pay her for any 1983-84 sick leave to the Secretary of Education. The Secretary determined that since Petitioner's pregnancy was an involuntary disability, she was entitled to accrue credit, and to be paid, for one sick leave day for the month of September in the 1983-84 school year. Petitioner was determined not to

[ 108 Pa. Commw. Page 86]

    be entitled to the remaining 9 sick leave days for the 1983-84 school year because she voluntarily chose not to return to work during the school year after her disability ended on October 3, 1983.

On appeal to this court, Petitioner contends that the 10 annual sick leave days provided by section 1154(a) must accrue and be credited to eligible teachers on the first day of the school year. Our scope of review is limited to determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the necessary findings of fact, whether an error of law has been made or whether there has been a violation of constitutional rights. Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. ยง 704. There is no dispute as to the facts in this case and no allegation of a violation of constitutional rights. The only issue before us is whether the Secretary's interpretation of section 1154 is legally correct. Section 1154(a) provides, in pertinent part:

In any school year whenever a professional or temporary professional employe is prevented by illness or accidental injury from following his or her occupation, the school district shall pay to said employe for each day of absence the full salary to which the employe may be entitled as if said employe were actually engaged in the performance of duty for a period of ten days. Any such unused leave shall be cumulative from year to year in the school district of current employment or its predecessors without limitation. All or any part of such accumulated unused leave may be taken with full pay in any one or more ...


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