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Pennsylvania State Troopers Association v. Pawlowski

June 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

Chief Judge Kane


Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). (Doc. No. 13.) Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition to the motion, and the deadline to file a reply brief has passed. Accordingly, the motion is now ripe before the Court for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


This case derives from the relationship between the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association ("PSTA"), a union with over 4,400 members, and the leadership of the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP"). Plaintiffs are all members of the PSP and hold leadership positions within the PSTA.*fn1

The PSTA had been party to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for over twenty years. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 19, 26.) On June 30, 2008, however, the long-standing CBA expired. (Id.) At the expiration of the CBA, the Commonwealth and the PSTA proceeded to arbitration to resolve their differences and to negotiate a new CBA. (Id.) Plaintiffs state that the retaliation against them for associating with the union and for filing grievances began as early as 2003, when Defendant Jeffrey Miller was PSP Commissioner, but increased significantly after many of them testified at the arbitration hearings which occurred from September to October 2008 as part of the CBA renegotiations. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 29-30, 32.) The specific factual allegations, accepted as true for purposes of this motion, are as follows.

Plaintiff Sarkis

Plaintiff Sarkis has participated in multiple union activities throughout the course of his career with the PSP, including serving as Vice-President of the PSTA and Chairman of the PSTA grievance committee. As Chairman of the Grievance Committee, Sarkis processed nearly 1,450 grievances filed by union members, including some filed on his own behalf. (Id. 24.) Additionally, Sarkis testified at the arbitration proceedings regarding the CBA on September 12, 2008. (Id. ¶ 26.)

Prior to the CBA renegotiations, Sarkis had routinely been granted administrative leave from his position as Polygraph Examiner to perform his duties for the Grievance Committee. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 29-30.) Beginning on or about November 2008, however, requests that Sarkis and others be released from duty to provide service to the union were stalled or denied by Defendants Pawlowski and Brown. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 33, 38.) Pawlowski and Brown stated that Sarkis's leave was denied because Sarkis's role as Polygraph Examiner was critical to the proper functioning of the department. (Id. ¶ 34, 37.) The PSTA disbelieved or disagreed with Defendants' decision and took the issue to an arbitrator. (Id. ¶ 36.)

On January 8, 2009, after the leave request was denied and arbitration was pursued, Sarkis was notified that he was selected for a quality control review for his polygraph examination work. (Id. ¶ 41.) Sarkis was selected for review though the department knew his significant administrative leave over the past year precluded him from having completed enough polygraph examinations during the relevant time period to substantiate a review. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 41, 45.) Despite the lack of work product, on March 8, 2009, the Polygraph Coordinator scheduled Sarkis for a March 11, 2009 review. (Id. ¶ 41.) Sarkis was "further advised that if the required files were not submitted by May 8, 2009, his future requests for administrative leave would be denied." (Id. ¶ 48.) Sarkis believed that the review proceedings were designed solely to harass him because the Polygraph Coordinator knew that Sarkis would be on administrative leave performing his union duties the week during for which the review was scheduled. (Id. ¶ 41.) A subsequent review was scheduled for April 23, 2009. (Id. ¶ 43.) Sarkis, concerned that the incomplete review would lead to a negative employment evaluation, learned from the Polygraph Coordinator that the quality control review would be cancelled if he withdrew from his position as Polygraph Examiner. (Id. ¶ 47.) To avoid the potentially negative review, Sarkis offered to "voluntarily remove himself from the position of polygraph examiner, if the quality control review were cancelled." (Id. ¶ 47.) Notwithstanding his statement of resignation, Sarkis was ordered to submit the required files for quality control review. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) Sarkis submitted the files, and, on June 28, 2009, he was reassigned to the position of Troop R Staff Services Unit Supervisor, a position that consisted of no regularly assigned duties. (Id. ¶ 51.) Though he had no regularly assigned duties in this new position, Pawlowski and Brown continued to deny his administrative leave requests. (Id. ¶ 52.)

Plaintiffs Williams and Plant

Plaintiff Williams worked as a Polygraph Examiner at the PSP, while serving in the union leadership as a local union Vice-President and a member of the Negotiating Committee. (Id. ¶ 94.) Plaintiff Williams also attended the CBA arbitration negotiations as a member of the Negotiating Committee. (Id. ¶ 96.) On September 10, 2008, the same day he attended the hearings, he received an e-mail from a bargaining unit member regarding the union proposals being advanced during the arbitration proceedings. (Id. ¶¶ 95-97.) In his capacity as a PSTA official, Williams responded to the e-mail, supporting the union proposals and criticizing PSP policy and leadership. (Id. ¶ 98.) Defendant Brown learned of the e-mail and, on October 10, 2008, initiated an Internal Affairs Division ("IAD") investigation into Williams on the basis that Williams's e-mail was "disparaging toward the Department and command staff." (Id. ¶ 99.) The IAD investigation was conducted by one of Brown's subordinates, rather than by a neutral supervisor external to the allegations. (Id. ¶ 101.) The investigation resulted in disciplinary action against Williams. (Id. ¶ 103.) By contrast, participants in the IAD investigation who had written "disparaging and vicious" e-mails critical of the PSTA position were not investigated and did not receive discipline. (Id. ¶ 102.)

Plaintiff Plant has been a member of the Board of Directors and Grievance Committee for a number of years. He has processed nearly 500 grievances filed by PSP members, including some on his own behalf. (Id. ¶ 65.) Beginning at an unidentified time in 2008, members of the Troop P Wyoming staff complained to Plaintiffs Plant and Williams, in their capacities as PSTA officials, that Captain Willard Oliphant was abusing Commonwealth resources by bringing his personal trash to the station to be emptied by lower-ranking officers. (Id. ¶¶ 69-71, 108-10.) This allegation was particularly harmful given Captain Oliphant's position as commander of the Bureau of Integrity and Professional Standards, Internal Affairs Division. (Id. ¶ 66.) Plant and Williams reported the improper conduct to Brown. (Id. ¶ 72, 111.) Though internal investigations into such a complaint would traditionally have been assigned to a disinterested supervisor from a different Troop, Brown and Pawlowski assigned the investigation into Oliphant's conduct to one of Oliphant's subordinates. (Id. ¶¶ 73-74, 113.) The internal investigation found that Plant and Williams were "misrepresenting facts" and "conducting an unauthorized investigation." (Id. ¶ 75, 113.) A disciplinary action against Plant and Williams was initiated on June 5, 2009, in consideration of the findings of the internal investigation. (Id. ¶ 76, 114.)

On August 18, 2009, a PSTA newsletter publicized the treatment Plaintiff Williams received with respect to his complaint against Oliphant. (Id. ¶ 116.) On August 24, 2009, after they received word of the newsletter, Defendants Pawlowski and Brown forbid Williams from continuing to perform his duties as Polygraph Examiner, though he had been performing such duties continuously despite the disciplinary action of June 5, 2009. (Id. ¶ 117, 118.)

Plaintiff Bova

Plaintiff Bova is a Patrol Corporal in Troop B Washington. (Id. ¶ 138.) As Patrol Corporal, Bova did the scheduling for all members of the patrol unit. (Id.) Bova is also a union official, serving on both the Grievance Committee and the Board of Directors. (Id. ¶ 136.) One of his duties as union official is to process grievances for members. (Id. ¶ 137.)

On April 18, 2008, Bova, in his capacity as a union representative, attempted to accompany a union member with a grievance into a meeting with the member's supervisor. (Id. 139.) Though the supervisor knew Bova was attending the meeting in such capacity, he ordered Bova to leave. (Id.) A grievance was filed against the supervisor ("first grievance") because a union representative is entitled to be present at a member's disciplinary meetings.*fn2 (Id.) On April 22, 2008, Defendants Miller and Brown are believed to have initiated an IAD investigation against Bova for "intimidation" and "insubordination." (Id. 140.) Bova then filed a grievance ("second grievance") alleging that the IAD investigation was an act of retaliation against him in response to the first grievance. (Id. ¶ 141.) The IAD investigation was discontinued after the second grievance was filed. (Id.)

On January 24, 2009, Bova was informed that a reorganization of sergeants within the Troop was going to occur, but that he would remain as the scheduler because he had been doing a good job in the position. (Id. ¶¶ 143-44.) Just two days later, however, Bova was notified that he was being removed from the scheduler position. (Id. ¶ 145.) Bova believes that Defendants Brown and Pawlowski recommended his relief ...

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