Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Delaware County, Honorable John A. Reilly, Judge.
Alexander A. DiSanti, Richard, DiSanti, Hamilton & Gallagher, Media, for appellants.
Steven E. Combs, Cramp, D'Iorio, McConchie & Forbes, P.C., Media, for appellee.
Doyle and Palladino, JJ., and Barbieri, Senior Judge.
[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 183]
Before us for consideration is the appeal of Garnet Valley Service Personnel Association (Association) and Robert Redden (Redden) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County which granted the Garnet Valley School District's (District) petition to set aside an arbitrators award. The basic issue presented is whether an Act 195*fn1 arbitrator has jurisdiction in this case where the administrative procedures contained in the Public School Code*fn2 (Code) are also available to resolve the issue of
[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 184]
Redden's discharge, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (Agreement) appears to defer to the Code.
Redden was hired as a bus driver by the District in February 1986 and was at all times relevant to this case a member of the bargaining unit. On September 11, 1987, the school bus operated by Redden was involved in a collision with another vehicle. Redden claimed that a gear malfunction caused the accident but he was nevertheless cited by the Pennsylvania State Police, and convicted of failure to yield the right-of-way.
Redden was advised on September 14, 1987 that he was to be suspended without pay pending completion of an investigation. After completing its investigation, the District notified Redden by letter dated October 12, 1987, that it intended to recommend his discharge due to incompetence, neglect of duty and improper conduct pursuant to Section 514 of the Code, 24 P.S. § 5-514. The letter further stated that Redden had the right under Code procedure and the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa.C.S. §§ 551-554, 751-754, to a due process hearing before the School Board (Board). Such a hearing was never requested. A second letter dated November 5, 1987 advised Redden that the Board would hold a hearing on November 16, 1987 regarding his discharge. However, neither Redden nor his counsel appeared at the hearing. Thereafter, the Board voted at its regular November monthly meeting to terminate Redden's employment effective September 14, 1987 and so advised him by letter dated November 25, 1987. Redden did not pursue any appeal process of the Board's decision available to him under the Local Agency Law.
Redden did however, on October 21, 1987, file a grievance challenging his proposed termination. The grievance was denied at Levels I and II based on the language in the Agreement*fn3 which is the subject of dispute in the instant
[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 185]
case. No action was taken at Level III by agreement of the parties and the matter moved directly to arbitration. After a hearing, the arbitrator issued a written opinion which found first, that the grievance was arbitrable, and second, on the merits, reversed the District's discharge of Redden. The arbitrator ordered instead that Redden be reinstated, with full back pay, benefits, and seniority, but disciplined by a one-week suspension without pay. The District filed a petition in common pleas court to vacate the award which petition was granted by that court. This appeal followed.
Our scope of review of an arbitrator's decision is highly circumscribed and that decision will not be overturned if it draws its "essence" from the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Leechburg Area School District v. Dale, 492 Pa. 515, 424 A.2d 1309 (1981); Community College of Beaver County v. Community College of Beaver County, Society of the Faculty (PSEA/NEA), 473 Pa. 576, 375 A.2d 1267 (1977). We are confined under the essence test to a determination of whether the arbitrator's decision could rationally be derived from the Collective Bargaining Agreement, viewed in light of its language, its context, and any other indicia of the parties' intention. See Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board v. Independent State Stores Union, 520 Pa. 266, 553 A.2d 948 (1989). In that case, the Supreme Court indicated ...