On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil No. 96-cv-008051)
Before: Becker, Chief Judge, Rendell and Heaney,* Circuit Judges
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Becker, Chief Judge
On June 24, 1996, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge signed into law the Act of June 24, 1996, P.L. 350, No. 57 ("Act 57"), which substantially reformed Pennsylvania's system of workers' compensation. On December 4, 1996, the plaintiffs, three unincorporated labor organizations --the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Local 3, AFL-CIO; Local 22 of the International Association of Firefighters, AFL-CIO; and District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (collectively "plaintiffs") -- filed this action against the Governor; Johnny J. Butler, Secretary of Labor and Industry; and Richard A. Himler, Director of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, in their official capacities, seeking a declaration that Sections 204(a) and 306(a.2) of the Pennsylvania Worker's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736 ("WCA"), as amended by Act 57, violate the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions. The plaintiffs also sought an injunction permanently enjoining the defendants from enforcing these sections. They rely upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). With regard to their Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the defendants argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction because: (1) the matter is not ripe for judicial review; (2) plaintiffs lack standing to pursue their claims; and (3) plaintiffs' claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution. The district court granted the Motion to Dismiss, basing its holding on the Conclusion that plaintiffs' claims were not ripe and, therefore, did not present a justiciable controversy. The court rejected defendants' argument that plaintiffs' complaint is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and declined to address whether plaintiffs had standing or whether they had stated proper claims for relief.
Plaintiffs filed a timely appeal, contending that the district court erred in holding that their claims were not ripe. Defendants cross-appealed, seeking review of the district court's refusal to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint based upon the Eleventh Amendment's jurisdictional bar. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and exercise plenary review over the district court's order dismissing plaintiffs' complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Armstrong World Indus., Inc. v. Adams, 961 F.2d 405, 410 (3d Cir. 1992). We affirm on the ground that the dispute is not justiciable because plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a controversy ripe for resolution by the federal courts. We therefore decline to reach the issues raised by the cross-appeal.
I. THE CHALLENGED PROVISIONS
A. The Impairment Rating (Procedural Due Process Claim)
Section 4 of Act 57 amended Section 306 of the WCA to add section 306(a.2), 77 P.S. § 511.2 (West Supp. 1997), permitting employers to require an employee to submit to an impairment rating evaluation after the employee receives total disability benefits for 104 weeks. See 77 P.S. § 511.2(1). Pursuant to section 511.2, an impairment rating evaluation is performed by a licensed physician chosen by the parties or appointed by the Department of Labor and Industry (the "Department"). See id. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine the level of the employee's impairment rating. If the employee's impairment rating is fifty percent or greater under the American Medical Association's Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, he or she remains classified as "totally disabled." See § 511.2(2). If, however, the examination results in an impairment rating that is less thanfifty percent, the employee is reclassified as "partially disabled." See id.
The change in status from "totally disabled" to "partially disabled" does not automatically affect the amount of compensation that the insurer must pay the employee. Rather, the Act provides that "[u]nless otherwise adjudicated or agreed to based upon a determination of
earning power under [§ 512(2)], the amount of compensation shall not be affected as a result of the change in disability status and shall remain the same." See § 511.2(3). The change in status does, however, affect the length of time that a claimant may receive workers' compensation benefits. An employee who is classified as "totally disabled" is entitled to collect benefits for as long as he or she remains classified as such. An employee with a partial disability, however, is eligible to receive benefits only for a period of 500 weeks, or approximately ten years. See § 511.2(7).
Before changing an employee's disability status, an employer must provide the employee with sixty days notice that his or her impairment rating evaluation showed that the employee was less than fifty percent impaired. See § 511.2(2). The Act also provides that "[a]n employee may appeal the change to partial disability at any time during the five hundred-week period of disability; Provided, That there is a determination that the employee meets ...