DR. SUSAN KEGERISE, Appellee
KATHY L. DELGRANDE, JOHN F. DIETRICH, CLIFTON D. EDWARDS, CAROL L. KARL, JESSE RAWLS, SR., DR. PETER J. SAKOL, HELEN D. SPENCE, AND MARK Y. SUSSMAN, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, Appellants
ARGUED: November 29, 2017
from the Order of the Commonwealth Court dated September 13,
2016, reconsideration denied November 9, 2016, at No. 232 CD
2015 Affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of
Dauphin County, Civil Division, dated November 5, 2014 at No.
SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY,
mandamus action involving the law of constructive discharge
and Pennsylvania's Public School Code,  Dr. Susan
Kegerise seeks reinstatement as superintendent of the
Susquehanna Township School District, as well as back pay and
benefits. Kegerise prevailed in the trial court, and the
Commonwealth Court affirmed. For the reasons that follow, we
January 2010, Kegerise was appointed superintendent of the
Susquehanna Township School District. On May 7, 2013, that
District's Board of Directors extended Kegerise's
contract for a three-year term after agreeing, at
Kegerise's request, to include the following provision at
RESIGNATION. In the event that Superintendent seeks to resign
or separate her employment with Board for any reason other
than death, illness, or disability, Superintendent shall give
at least sixty (60) days' written notice . . . . No
notice whatsoever shall be required by the Superintendent
should her resignation be caused by the Board's breach of
this AGREEMENT or caused by constructive termination by the
Board or any of its members.
Stipulations of Fact ("J.S.F.") Ex. A § 8.03,
May 2, 2014 (Contract for Employment of District
Superintendent). Kegerise has alleged that this new
resignation clause was necessary to protect her interests in
light of several Board members' inappropriate behavior.
See Brief for Kegerise at 6. Kegerise further
alleged that, this clause notwithstanding, and in an effort
to force her resignation, several Board members persisted in
hostile actions including, inter alia, physical
intimidation and verbal abuse, even after the contract was
executed. Id. at 6-7.
March 25, 2014, Kegerise informed the Board that she was
receiving medical care and would be unable to return to work
until April 21, 2014. While Kegerise was on medical leave,
the Board received several letters from Kegerise's
counsel asserting that Kegerise had been constructively
discharged. By letter dated April 16, 2014, the Board
responded as follows:
Dr. Kegerise is and remains the Superintendent of Schools at
Susquehanna Township School District pursuant to the contract
between she and the Board. Her recent absence from work was
based on a physician's note received from Dr. Kegerise.
Her time away from the District since that day has been
recorded as sick leave derived from Dr. Kegerise's
pre-existing sick leave accumulation.
* * * *
Finally, the District understands that Dr. Kegerise's
current physician's note indicates that she is precluded
from working until April 21, 2014. If she is cleared to
return to work, then the District hopes and expects her to
return to her duties as Superintendent. If she is not, the
District will continue to debit her sick leave time and
continue to process her workers['] compensation claim.
J.S.F. at Ex. B.
next day, April 17, 2014, Kegerise filed a complaint in the
United States District Court, alleging, inter alia,
that the Board had constructively discharged
Kegerise asserted that, "although no formal termination
has taken place, [she] cannot perform the job duties of
Superintendent, " due to the Board's behavior toward
her. Fed. Compl. ¶ 86. Kegerise sought damages in excess
of six million dollars, including, inter
alia, compensatory and economic damages "for
loss of contractual salary and other emoluments of
employment" and consequential damages for "damage
to professional reputation and loss of future salary as an
educational administrator." Id. at 20. Kegerise
also signed a verification of her federal complaint,
affirming under penalty of perjury that the statements
contained within the complaint were true. See
Verification to Fed. Compl.
April 21, 2014, Kegerise's physician sent a letter to the
Board, advising that Kegerise would be "off of work
until further notice due to work related medical
issues." Pl.'s Oct. 16, 2014 Evid. Hr'g Ex. 9b.
That same day, during a regularly-scheduled meeting, the
Board amended its agenda to address Kegerise's federal
suit, and passed a motion to "[a]ccept the resignation
of Dr. Kegerise as superintendent that is implicit with the
term 'constructive discharge, ['] effective April 17,
2014." J.S.F. Ex. E, at 130. In a letter dated April 22,
2014, the Board advised Kegerise that, in light of her
federal complaint alleging constructive discharge, a majority
of the Board had voted to accept her resignation.
Id. at Ex. F.
16, 2014, Kegerise filed the operative Amended Complaint in
mandamus with the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County
(hereinafter, the "trial court"), seeking
reinstatement and compensation. In response, the Board
alleged that Kegerise failed to state a claim upon which
relief in mandamus could be granted. The Board argued that
Kegerise was estopped from asserting that she did not resign,
inasmuch as she had submitted a signed verification with her
federal constructive discharge claim, affirming that the
statements in her complaint were true and correct to the best
of her knowledge, information, and belief. See
Verification to Fed. Compl. The Board maintained that,
because resignation is a requirement of a constructive
discharge claim, Kegerise's resignation was manifest.
October 16, 2014, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing
to determine whether Kegerise had intended to resign when she
filed her federal complaint. At the hearing, the Board
demonstrated that Kegerise's counsel had negotiated the
resignation provision in Section 8.03 of Kegerise's
employment contract, which used the term "constructive
termination." Kegerise Notes of Testimony
("N.T."), 10/16/2014, at 80-81. Kegerise testified
that she understood "constructive termination" to
occur when the Board's actions made her working
conditions so intolerable that she would be forced to resign.
Id. at 81-84. Kegerise further testified that her
understanding of the term "constructive termination,
" as used in both her employment contract and her
federal complaint, was the same. Id. at 89.
November 5, 2014, the trial court issued an order directing
the Board to reinstate Kegerise and restore all back pay and
benefits, finding, inter alia, that Kegerise had
never resigned. The Board appealed to the Commonwealth Court.
the Commonwealth Court, the Board again argued that mandamus
was inappropriate because Kegerise had failed to establish a
clear legal right to reinstatement and a corresponding duty
in the Board to reverse its acceptance of her resignation.
Kegerise asserted that her right to reinstatement arose from
the Board's failure to adhere to the removal procedure
set forth in Section 1080 of Pennsylvania's Public School
Code. That provision states, in relevant part:
District superintendents and assistant district
superintendents may be removed from office and have their
contracts terminated, after hearing, by a majority vote of
the board of school directors of the district, for neglect of
duty, incompetency, intemperance, or immorality, of which
hearing notice of at least one week has been sent by mail to
the accused, as well as to each member of the board of school
24 P.S. § 10-1080(a).
Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court's grant of
mandamus. Kegerise v. Delgrande, 147 A.3d 930 (Pa.
Cmwlth. 2016). The Commonwealth Court characterized the
requirements of a constructive discharge claim as follows:
On its face, the constructive discharge standard contemplates
termination without a plaintiff's actual
resignation, as long as a reasonable person would have
felt compelled to resign, even if the plaintiff did not
actually resign. The test is whether a hypothetical,
reasonable employee would have resigned, not the employee
alleging constructive discharge.
Id. at 934-35 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2016) (emphasis added).
Without confronting precedent requiring actual resignation to
sustain a constructive discharge claim,  the Commonwealth
Court opined that constructive discharge does not require
such resignation, and found "unpersuasive" the
Board's view that Kegerise's filing of a federal
complaint alleging constructive discharge constituted such a
resignation. Id. at 935.
to the elements of a mandamus claim, the Commonwealth Court
determined that, because the Public School Code imposed
statutorily-mandated duties upon Kegerise as a superintendent
elected by the Board, Kegerise had a clear legal right to
perform those duties. Id. at 938 (citing 24 P.S.
§ 10-1081, which sets forth the duties of
superintendents). The Court further opined that the Board had
a corresponding ...