Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County in the case of North East School District v. North East Education Association and Michael Dohanic, No. 4093-A-1986.
Alexander A. DiSanti, Richard, DiSanti, Hamilton, Gallagher & Paul, for appellants.
Timothy M. Sennett, Knox, Graham, McLaughlin, Gornall and Sennett, Inc., for appellee.
Judges Barry and Smith, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.
[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 20]
North East Education Association and Michael Dohanic (appellants) appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County which sustained a petition for review filed by the North East School District (District) from an arbitrator's decision. We reverse.
The facts giving rise to the controversy in this case are not complicated. Mr. Dohanic was employed as a teacher in one of the District's elementary schools. He was the author of a trivia column which regularly appeared in a local newspaper. Mr. Dohanic customarily placed copies of his column in some of the other teachers' school mailboxes. His column of March 10, 1986, arguably contained sexually oriented material. Following the receipt of complaints about the contents of the column and an investigation of the matter the District issued Mr. Dohanic a three day suspension.
[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 21]
Mr. Dohanic filed a grievance which argued that the suspension violated various provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. The grievance proceeded to arbitration where the District maintained that a disciplinary suspension was not arbitrable under the collective bargaining agreement inasmuch as the agreement does not contain provisions regarding discipline. Accordingly, it argued that this matter did not fall within the agreement's definition of "grievance."
The arbitrator determined that the matter was arbitrable on the basis of an "implied just cause for discipline" provision in the collective bargaining agreement. Further, he found that the District had established just cause for disciplining Mr. Dohanic but reduced the suspension from three days to one day.
The District appealed the arbitrator's decision to the Court of Common Pleas which reversed. The trial court reasoned that the arbitrator erred in concluding that the collective bargaining agreement contained an implied just cause for discipline provision. Accordingly, it concluded that the arbitrator erred in accepting jurisdiction over the disciplinary action and reversed his decision inasmuch as it did not draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement. This appeal followed.
It is well-settled that the judiciary has a very narrow scope of review of arbitration awards. An arbitrator's decision may not be overturned so long as it draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement. Leechburg Area School District v. Dale, 492 Pa. 515, 424 A.2d 1309 (1981). "Furthermore, the broad deference given to the arbitrator's decision applies equally to his determinations regarding the arbitrability of the subject matter of the grievance." Bristol Township Education Association v. Bristol ...