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UNIVERSITY PITTSBURGH v. CITY PITTSBURGH COMMISSION ON HUMAN RELATIONS AND ARTHUR ROBINSON (03/23/89)

decided: March 23, 1989.

UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF PITTSBURGH COMMISSION ON HUMAN RELATIONS AND ARTHUR ROBINSON, APPELLEES



Appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of University of Pittsburgh v. City of Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations and Arthur Robinson, S.A. No. 423 of 1984.

COUNSEL

Martha Hartle-Munsch, with her, Scott F. Zimmerman and Robert F. Prorok, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellant.

Robert T. Kane, with him, Byrd R. Brown, for appellees.

Judges Colins and McGinley, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge McGinley. Judge Smith did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Mcginley

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 380]

The University of Pittsburgh (University) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which affirmed a decision of the City of Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (Commission) which concluded that Arthur Robinson (Robinson) was discharged from employment by the University because of his race. We reverse.

Robinson, a black male, was employed by the University for approximately fifteen years as a custodial worker until August 13, 1979, when Robinson was suspended pending investigation of an incident wherein he was charged with raping a white female co-employee on August 16, 1979. Donna Dengler (Dengler) the alleged victim, contacted John Shamlin, her supervisor, and informed

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 381]

    him that she had been raped at knifepoint by Robinson on June 18, 1979. This report was investigated by Detective Francis Walsh (Walsh) of the University Police Department. Walsh interviewed Dengler and a co-worker, Vicki Campbell. Walsh's investigation was completed and a warrant was issued for Robinson's arrest. On September 10, 1979, Thomas Cherry (Cherry) University Director of Employment and Employee Relations converted Robinson's suspension to a discharge. Robinson was eventually tried by a jury on the criminal charges and acquitted. Pursuant to a contract between the University and Robinson's union, Service Employees' International Local No. 29, a grievance was filed alleging that he was discharged without sufficient cause. This grievance was denied by the University and was subsequently heard before an arbitrator selected by both parties. The arbitrator concluded that Robinson did commit the rape and denied the grievance. Robinson subsequently brought an action before the Commission alleging that he was discharged by the University because of his race in violation of Section 659.02 of the Pittsburgh City Code. The Commission found that Robinson had met his burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. Further, the Commission concluded that although the University's discharge of Robinson for the sexual assault appeared to be based on a legitimate non-discriminatory reason, this stated reason was merely a pretext for racial discrimination. The Commission ordered that Robinson be reinstated to his previous position when available and that the University pay Robinson full backpay. The University appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (common pleas court) which affirmed the Commission. The University appeals.

The University presents three issues for our review. First, the University contends the common pleas court

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 382]

    erred in concluding that the Commission properly interpreted and applied the pertinent legal standards. Second, the University contends that the common pleas court incorrectly concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the Commission's finding of racial discrimination. Third, the University contends the Commission awarded an improper amount of backpay.

Our scope of review herein is limited to a determination of whether there was a violation of constitutional rights, an error of law, or whether the findings of fact necessary to support the adjudication are supported by substantial evidence. The task of weighing the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, to credit and discredit testimony, to draw inferences and make ultimate findings of fact as to whether a violation occurred is for the Commission. ...


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