Com., Human Relations Commission v. United States Steel Corp. Am. Bridge Division, Shiffler Works

Decision Date01 November 1973
Citation311 A.2d 170,10 Pa.Cmwlth. 408
CourtPennsylvania Commonwealth Court

Argued Sept. 6, 1973.

Rajeshwar Kumar, Harrisburg, for plaintiff.

James H. Stewart, Jr., Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall, Harrisburg for amicus curiae: The Hospital Association of Pennsylvania and Aliquippa Hospital, Columbia Hospital, Braddock General Hospital, Western Pennsylvania Hospital, The South Side Hospital, Chester County Hospital, Harrisburg Hospital harrisburg Polyclinic Hospital.

S. G. Clark, Jr., James T. Carney, Pittsburgh, for defendant.


BOWMAN President Judge.

Before us are preliminary objections of United States Steel (USS) to a complaint in equity by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission seeking enforcement of an order it had previously issued to USS to answer extensive interrogatories.

To delineate the issues raised by the preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer contesting both the jurisdiction of this Court to entertain the complaint and the jurisdiction of a court of equity, a recitation of the background leading to the filing of this complaint in equity is necessary. Although not averred in the Commission's complaint, it is undisputed and we take judicial notice of public records which are the genesis of subsequent Commission action leading to the present controversy.

In 1971, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) compiled a list of some 85 Pennsylvania employers which, based upon percentages of women and minority groups employed by a particular employer measured by comparable percentages in area census figures, it found to be appropriate subjects for affirmative action programs. Based upon this report EEOC submitted to our Pennsylvania Commission an EEOC Project Report--Analysis of Targets. [1] USS is one of the employers listed and 'targeted' for suggested action by our Pennsylvania Commission.

Action on its own initiative, on August 21, 1972, the Commission filed with itself a formal complaint against USS alleging it to have violated Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, as amended, 43 P.S. § 955, in that USS '. . . has in the past and continues until the present time to maintain a discriminatory system of recruitment, hiring, training, employment, compensation, promotion, demotion, job assignment or placement, transfer, lay off, retention, referral, dismissal, rehire, retirement, and pensions, and has otherwise discriminated in the past and continues until the present time to discriminate regarding terms, conditions and privileges of employment because of sex, race and national origin.'

Attached to this complaint was an interrogatory consisting of sixty-one questions which were to be answered within twenty-one days. USS refused to answer them. Hence this suit in which the Commission, asserting a want of an adequate remedy at law, seeks judicial enforcement of its order directing USS to answer the interrogatories.

Two issues are raised by the preliminary objections. In considering them we must be mindful that the Commission, of the several alternatives available to it to perform its duties and effectuate the purpose of the Act, chose to proceed in this case through self-initiated formal complaint procedures pursuant to Section 9 of the Act, 43 P.S. § 959, which, among other procedures, provides that the '. . . Commission upon its own initiative . . . may . . . make, sign and file such complaint.'

It is equally important to keep in mind that the Commission, in its complaint in equity in this Court, asserts that a court of equity has jurisdiction to enforce a Commission order notwithstanding Section 10 of the Act, 43 P.S. § 960, which confers upon this Court statutory juisdiction to enforce lawful orders of the Commission through enforcement proceedings initiated by the Commission.

Having chosen to proceed against USS for alleged discriminatory practices in employment by self-initiated formal complaint procedures, must the Commission complaint set forth the particulars of the alleged discrimination and, if so, does the complaint of the Commission meet that test?

Section 9 of the Act, under which the Commission elected to proceed in this case, requires complaints to be in writing, contain the name and address of the person aleged to have committed a discriminatory practice and to 'set forth the particulars' of the alleged discriminatory practice.

It is defendant's contention that the Commission's self-initiated formal complaint is subject to this requirement of particularity, that it fails to meet this test and thus does not state a cause of action upon which subsequent discovery procedure may rest; in this case a demand to respond to the disputed interrogatories. To hold otherwise, defendant contends would permit the Commission by a fishing expedition to bootstrap this fundamental inadequacy of its complaint.

The Commission does not contend, and we perceive no basis for a contention, that its self-initiated complaint is not subject to the particularity of pleading requirement of Section 5. It does contend, however, that the averments of the complaint meet this test or, alternatively, that as a tool of its investigatory power it may order the interrogatories in question to be answered.

The crucial paragraph of the Commission complaint against USS is recited above.

It is self-evident that this averment is but a slightly expanded restatement of Section 5(a) of the Act and as such is a mere conclusion of law. It is totally deficient in particularity by any standard, and advises USS in no way by what means, methods or circumstances it is charged with discrimination.

In Pittsburgh Press Employment Advertising Discrimination Appeal, 4 Pa.Cmwlth. 448, 287 A.2d 161 (1972), aff'd Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376, 93 S.Ct. 2553, 37 L.Ed.2d 669 (1973), we recognized that constitutional due process considerations do not require administrative proceedings and practices to conform to the niceties of judicial proceedings and applied the rule in that case. We further observed, however, that the parties are entitled to know the issue in any particular proceedings so that they may be prepared to meet it by proper evidence. Pittsburgh Press involved a local ordinance which was silent as to the particularity required of formal complaints, and the complaint in that case was initiated by third persons, not by that particular commission itself. That complaint also clearly pinpointed the particular action or activity alleged to be discriminatory, namely the employment advertisements of the newspaper carried under male or female columns. Equally inapposite as Pittsburgh Press to support the Commission's position are the many Federal court and administrative agency rulings cited by it as they are concerned with different statutory provisions or involve investigatory procedures. We would add that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, well-staffed with avowed experts and attorneys experienced in this field, should not and cannot, of all complainants, be permitted to...

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1 cases
  • Com., Human Relations Commission v. U.S. Steel Corp. Am. Bridge Division, Shiffler Works
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
    • November 1, 1973
    ... ... (BNA) 967, ... 6 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 8914 ... COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania HUMAN RELATIONS ... COMMISSION, Plaintiff, ... UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION AMERICAN BRIDGE DIVISION, ... SHIFFLER WORKS, Defendant ... Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ... Argued Sept. 6, 1973 ... ...

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