465 A.2d 740 (Pa.Cmwlth. 1983), Murphy v. Com., Pennsylvania Human Relations Com'n

Citation:465 A.2d 740, 77 Pa.Cmwlth. 291
Opinion Judge:Author: Barbieri
Party Name:Joan L. MURPHY, et al., Petitioners, v. COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION, Respondent.
Case Date:September 28, 1983
Court:Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
 
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Page 740

465 A.2d 740 (Pa.Cmwlth. 1983)

77 Pa.Cmwlth. 291

Joan L. MURPHY, et al., Petitioners,

v.

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS

COMMISSION, Respondent.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

September 28, 1983

Argued April 6, 1983.

Page 741

[77 Pa.Cmwlth. 293] Alan M. Lerner, Jeffrey Ivan Pasek, Barry Elson, Stanley M. Schwartz, Philadelphia, for petitioners.

Cecilia Marcri and Ellen Barry Harrisburg, for commission/respondent.

Mark P. Muller, Philadelphia, for Sheet Metal Workers.

Stephen P. Gallagher, Philadelphia, for Crown Cork & Seal, Intervenor.

[77 Pa.Cmwlth. 292] Before WILLIAMS, DOYLE and BARBIERI, JJ.

BARBIERI, Judge.

Fourteen former and current employees (Petitioners) of Crown Cork and Seal Company (Crown) appeal here from an order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (Commission) disposing of two complaints filed against Crown and Local 266, Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, AFL-CIO (Union). We affirm.

On December 22, 1970, the Commission instituted a complaint, on its own motion, against Crown and the Union making the following allegation of improper conduct:

  1. On or about to wit, December 22, 1970 the complainant alleges that the respondent Company engages in unlawful employment practices which are discriminatory with respect to female employes, because of their sex, in hiring, assignment, seniority, transfer, salary, overtime, promotion, denial of training, and layoff. It is further alleged that the respondent Union concurs in and aids and abets the discriminatory practices of the respondent company.

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On June 11, 1971, a former employee of Crown, Elizabeth C. McNasby, also filed a complaint with the Commission[77 Pa.Cmwlth. 294] in which she alleged that Crown and the Union "consorted in the lay-off of the complainant because of her sex, FEMALE, and have prevented her, as well as other females, from enjoying equal job opportunities at Crown Cork and Seal Company." Following the procedures specified in Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Act), Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, as amended, 43 P.S. § 959, the Commission instituted investigations into each of these complaints, and found probable cause to credit the allegations of its complaint and the McNasby complaint on April 6, 1972 and June 20, 1972, respectively. The Commission then commenced conciliation efforts, and on October 26, 1972 issued Investigative Findings detailing the evidence it had compiled of the alleged discriminatory conduct of Crown. This evidence tended to show that Crown discriminated against women with respect to hiring, training, job assignments, layoffs, transfers, promotions, salary levels, and the availability of overtime. The Union then filed a written response to the Investigative Findings alleging, inter alia, that it had no control over the policies of Crown.

Although the Commission's conciliation efforts subsequently proved unsuccessful, the Commission took no further action on either the McNasby or its own complaint until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission v. United States Steel Corp., 458 Pa. 559, 325 A.2d 910 (1974). In United States Steel, the Commission had filed a complaint against the United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) which contained an allegation of discriminatory conduct nearly identical to that found in the Commission's December 22, 1970 complaint against Crown and the Union. Interrogatories were then sent to U.S. Steel, U.S. Steel refused to answer them, and the Commission responded by filing an equity action addressed to this Court's [77 Pa.Cmwlth. 295] original jurisdiction seeking an order directing U.S. Steel to respond. Preliminary objections were filed, and in Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission v. United States Steel Corporation, 10 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 408, 311 A.2d 170 (1973), we dismissed the Commission's action because (1) we lacked equity jurisdiction over the matter and (2) the Commission's complaint failed to meet the particularity requirement of Section 9 of the Act, the relevant portion of which reads as follows:

Any individual claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged unlawful discriminatory practice may make, sign and file with the Commission a verified complaint, in writing, which shall state the name and address of the ... employer ... alleged to have committed the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of, and which shall set forth the particulars thereof.... The Commission upon its own initiative ... may, in like manner, make, sign and file such complaint.... (Emphasis added.)

On appeal, our Supreme Court affirmed solely on the basis that the Commission's complaint failed to meet the particularity requirements of Section 9. In response to this decision, the Commission filed an Amended Complaint against Crown and the Union on October 27, 1975, naming itself and thirteen former and current employees of Crown as the complainants, in which it described in great detail the alleged discriminatory conduct of Crown and the Union. This complaint, in addition to seeking specific forms of relief for each of the individually named complainants, also sought relief "in the form of status adjustments, back wages and/or restoration of lost benefits" for the following classes of individuals:

(a) All female employees placed on layoff status since July 9, 1969 for any period of time, [77 Pa.Cmwlth. 296] whether or not they were ever recalled and whether or not their recall rights have since expired;

(b) All female employees who were on layoff status, on July 9, 1969 who were not recalled or did not accept recall subsequent to July 9, 1969

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whether or not their recall rights have since expired;

(c) All female employees who since July 9, 1969 have for any period of time been employed in jobs classified at Code 19 or below;

(d) All females who since July 9, 1969 have been rejected for employment by the Respondent Company.

Crown subsequently filed an answer to this amended complaint denying each of the allegations of discriminatory conduct, and in "New Matter" asserted, inter alia, (1) that the Commission's amended complaint was barred by the doctrine of laches, (2) that the Commission was not authorized to seek class-wide relief, and (3) that certain of the individually named complainants lacked standing to file a complaint since they were no longer employed by Crown. The Union, for its part, simply submitted a letter informing the Commission that it would not file an answer. The Commission subsequently conducted a new investigation, made a new probable cause determination, reinstituted conciliation efforts, and issued amended findings summarizing the results of its investigation, even though the Commission's Amended Complaint, by its very terms, purported to be an amended version of the Commission's December 22, 1970 Complaint, and not a new cause of action. Thereafter, the Commission's conciliation efforts once again proved to be...

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