Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County in the case of Michael F. Sasko v. Charleroi Area School District, No. 69 September 1982 A.D.
Mark E. Mascara, with him, Franklin L. Bialon, for appellant.
Keith A. Bassi, with him, Melvin B. Bassi, Bassi & Associates, P.C., for appellee.
Judges Doyle, Colins and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 221]
This is an appeal by Michael F. Sasko from his dismissal as a custodian with the Charleroi Area School District (District). A post termination hearing was held by the Board of School Directors of the Charleroi Area School District (Board). It upheld the dismissal. The case was then appealed to the common pleas court which determined the case upon the record established before the Board and upon certain stipulations.
Sasko had been an employee of the District beginning in 1974. He had been employed originally as a bus driver and then as a custodian. He was a member of the relevant bargaining unit covered by the bargaining agreement but he was not a member of the association which was the bargaining agent for the bargaining unit. On June 4, 1982, he was sent notice by the superintendent of schools that he was being suspended without pay because of "problems that had built up over a prolonged period of time." On June 29, 1982 he was notified by the superintendent that his employment had been terminated effective June 4. On August 17, 1982 a
[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 222]
hearing was held by the Board. On August 23, 1982 the Board passed a resolution confirming and ratifying the dismissal action. Sasko subsequently filed an appeal in the common pleas court where the Board's action was upheld. This appeal ensued.
On appeal here we are asked to determine whether Sasko's constitutional rights were violated because the Board, although it conducted a post-termination hearing, failed to afford him a pre-termination hearing. The trial court determined that Sasko had no property interest in his job and, hence, that he was not entitled to any pre-termination hearing. It further determined that he was an employee at will.
Procedural due process requirements apply only when one is deprived of an interest encompassed within the Fourteenth Amendment protections of, inter alia, property. Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972). When protected interests are involved some kind of prior opportunity to respond is required before those rights are terminated. Id. To determine whether procedural due process requirements apply, we must examine the nature of the interest. Id.
To have a property interest in a benefit such as employment an individual must have more than an abstract need or desire or unilateral expectation of the benefit; he must have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it. Id. And, in determining whether such entitlement exists, we must examine the substantive law, in this case, state law. Id. One's substantive property interest may be created by a statute, regulation, contract or an understanding. Id; Perri v. Aytch, 724 F.2d 362 (3d Cir. 1983). Only if such an interest is established is it necessary to determine what process is due. See Roth. And, when the question of what process is due is ...