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Pa.: Court Allows Parking Employees to Arbitrate Lay-offs

By Rita Zeidner  7/22/2014
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Unionized employees of the City of Scranton’s Parking Authority who were laid off by a court-appointed receiver may pursue arbitration with their former employer.

Reversing a trial court’s ruling, an en banc panel of judges ruled that a Lackawanna County judge erred when it enjoined Teamsters Local 229 from pursuing arbitration of grievances against the Parking Authority. A collective bargaining agreement was in effect when the Parking Authority went into receivership.

In granting the receiver relief, the trial court relied on precedent that generally supports the trial court’s decision to serve as the gatekeeper for any claims against the receiver or the receivership estate.

The panel, however, noted that receivership applies only to certain assets of the Parking Authority — not the Parking Authority itself. There was no requirement that the Teamsters seek permission from the trial court before grieving a labor dispute against the Parking Authority, it said.

The panel also noted that Pennsylvania labor policy “strongly favors the arbitration of public employee grievances.” As a result, the judges wrote, “we fail to see how permitting the Union to seek an arbitrator’s decision on whether the Parking Authority violated the Agreement would be ‘unlawful’ or would violate any right of the bondholders.”

The judges opined that the possibility that an arbitrator’s decision might lead to a claim against the receiver “is too speculative to support a preliminary injunction.”

If the arbitration results in some relief for the union, it will be up to the receivership court, the court hearing an appeal from the arbitration award, or both, to decide whether the arbitrator’s award can be enforced, the judges concluded.

Wells Fargo Bank v. Parking Authority of the City of Scranton, Pa. Commonwealth Ct., No. 1084 CD 2013 (June 26, 2014).

Rita Zeidner is a freelance business writer and former senior writer for HR Magazine.
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