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STOKES v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF TEMPLE UNIV.

March 24, 1988

Shirley Stokes, et al
v.
The Board of Trustees of Temple University, et al



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LUDWIG

 Edmund V. Ludwig, J.

 On June 30, 1986, Temple University terminated plaintiffs' employment as academic advisors in its Special Recruitment and Admission Program (SRAP) and, shortly thereafter, eliminated the program's advisory function. The complaint, as amended, charges racial and national origin discrimination (Count I) and free speech violations (Count II), under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. Four plaintiffs are black and the fifth is of Hispanic origin. The purpose of the program was to assist minority students with educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. The causes of the terminations are alleged to have been discrimination, plaintiffs' criticisms of Temple's minority educational programs, and the filing by plaintiffs of collective bargaining grievances and complaints with various governmental agencies.

 On July 14, 1986, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), filed unfair labor practice charges with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB), alleging that Temple violated Sections 1101.1201(a)(1) and (3) of the Pennsylvania Public Employe Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 1101.101 et seq. (Purdon Supp. 1987), by terminating plaintiffs' employment. *fn1" Specifically, the union contended that plaintiffs were discharged "in retaliation for their filing of numerous grievances under the collective bargaining agreement and outspoken criticisms of [Temple's] administration of [SRAP]." AAUP v. Temple University, PERA-C-86-342-E, slip op. at 1 (PLRB, August 7, 1987). The PLRB decided the case in Temple's favor, concluding that the university's evidence overcame any showing of retaliation by the union. Id. at 6 n.2.

 
Although the record provides support for many of the AAUP's factual assertions, the charge must be dismissed because Dr. Banks [the director of SRAP since May of 1985] credibly testified that the academic advisors were laid off for legitimate educational reasons.
 
* * * *
 
. . . the AAUP contends that the academic advisors were not laid off for sound educational reasons.
 
* * * *
 
. . . While issue may be taken with the wisdom of Dr. Banks' decision and the manner in which it was carried out, the fact remains that Dr. Banks credibly testified that she was solely responsible for making it and that she made it for what she considered to be legitimate educational reasons . . . . The record does not show that the academic advisors having filed grievances and complaints motivated that decision. That being the case, the charge must be dismissed. *fn2"

 Id. at 8-9.

 Under University of Tennessee v. Elliott, 478 U.S. 788, , 106 S. Ct. 3220, 3227, 92 L. Ed. 2d 635 (1986), the PLRB's findings on "issues of fact properly before it which the parties have had an adequate opportunity to litigate" must receive the same preclusive effect here as would be given by a Pennsylvania state court. Defendants cite two of the PLRB's conclusions: 1) "the record does not show that the academic advisors having filed grievances and complaints motivated [the] decision [to terminate the advisors]," and; 2) "Dr. Banks credibly testified that the academic advisors were laid off for legitimate educational reasons." These findings, they assert, collaterally estop plaintiffs as to all of the material issues raised in this action.

 Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be denied as to Count I and granted as to Count II.

 Under Pennsylvania case law, collateral estoppel will apply to findings of an administrative agency, such as the PLRB, where four conditions are present: 1) the issues in the agency proceeding are identical to those before the court; 2) the agency rendered a final decision on the merits; 3) the party against whom the finding is asserted was a party or in privity with a party in the agency proceeding; and 4) the party against whom it is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue ...


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