The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior Judge Friedman
BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.
West Allegheny School District (School District) appeals from the September 17, 2009,*fn1 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court), which denied the School District's petition to vacate a grievance arbitration award in favor of a teacher whose request to return to work early from childbearing leave due to a financial emergency was denied. We affirm.
On October 2, 2007, Erin Clay (Grievant), an eighth grade teacher, requested childbearing leave pursuant to Article XVII, Section D of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the School District and the West Allegheny Education Association (Association).*fn2 In her letter, Grievant stated:
I am writing concerning my childbearing leave. I am expecting my child on November 9, 2007. I anticipate being able to work up until this date unless my doctor informs me otherwise.
I have 15 days accumulated as of this point and would like to use them all. This would enable me to get paid until December 5, 2007. I would then like to receive Family Medical Leave for 60 days and continue to receive the Continuation of Benefits for my family and myself during this time. The date at the end of the 60 days would be on or about March 11, 2008.
I am asking to extend this leave until November 9, 2008, and realize that I would be responsible for paying my benefits until this time. I realize that I would have to submit a request to the School Board if I need to return to work earlier due to financial obligations.
My husband is a salesman and works on commission, so I am not sure how long I will be able to take off to raise my three children. I am sorry to be so vague on my time of return, I just don't know where we will be financially speaking. It is a possibility that I will have to return to work earlier. Thank you for your time!
(Arbitrator's Award at 12-13, R.R. at 41-42) (emphasis added). The School District approved the request.
On April 9, 2008, Grievant requested that the School District permit her to return to work on May 14, 2008, due to financial obligations. On April 17, 2008, the School District notified Grievant that she could not return to work for the remaining three weeks of the school year because the School District had hired a long-term substitute. In denying Grievant's request, the School District applied Article XVII, Section E(3) of the CBA, pertaining to childrearing leave,*fn3 rather than Article XVII, Section D(3) of the CBA, pertaining to childbearing leave.
The Association filed a grievance on behalf of Grievant, and the matter was heard by an arbitrator. Before the arbitrator, the Association argued that: (1) Grievant took childbearing leave under Section D; (2) under Section D(3), Grievant could return to work early in cases of an emergency; (3) Grievant had a financial emergency; and, (4) thus, the School District should have allowed Grievant to return to work early. The School District argued that: (1) the word "emergency" in Section D(3) refers to childbearing emergencies, i.e., complications from the birth, not financial emergencies;*fn4 and (2) if Grievant were allowed to return to work due to a financial emergency under Section D(3), which applies only to females, then the CBA would discriminate against males because they can only take childrearing leave under Section E, which does not permit them to return to work early any time the School District has hired a long-term substitute. The arbitrator accepted the Association's position and ordered Grievant made whole.*fn5
The School District filed a petition to vacate the award with the trial court, which denied the petition. In doing so, the trial court rejected the School District's argument that the CBA discriminated against males by having separate and different provisions for childbearing and childrearing leave. The trial court explained that female teachers, after childbearing, are not similarly situated with male teachers on childrearing leave because the female teachers may choose to breastfeed their ...