SEIU Healthcare Pa., CTW, CLC v. Reg'l Hosp. of Scranton

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
Citation106 F.Supp.3d 523
Docket NumberNo. 3:13–CV–02669.,3:13–CV–02669.
Decision Date15 May 2015

106 F.Supp.3d 523


No. 3:13–CV–02669.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania.

Filed May 15, 2015.

106 F.Supp.3d 525

Bruce M. Ludwig, John R. Bielski, Willig, Williams & Davidson, Philadelphia, PA, for Plaintiff.

Darren M. Creasy, Sidney R. Steinberg, Post & Schell, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, for Defendant.


ROBERT D. MARIANI, District Judge.

I. Procedural History

In this Opinion, the Court addresses an issue which remained unresolved after this Court's Memorandum (Doc. 22) and Order (Doc. 23) of January 12, 2015, which granted in part and denied in part the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 15) of

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Plaintiff, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, CTW, CLC ("Union"). The Court granted the Union's Motion as to the second, third and fourth affirmative defenses of Defendant, Regional Hospital of Scranton ("Hospital"), and entered judgment in favor of the Union and against the Hospital as to those affirmative defenses, which had been raised in opposition to the Union's Complaint (Doc. 1) to enforce an arbitration award reinstating an employee of the Hospital.

The Union's Motion was denied as to the first affirmative defense of the Hospital which submitted that "[t]he award of reinstatement is contrary to Pennsylvania public policy which precludes its enforcement." (Ans. and Aff. Defenses, Doc. 9, at 5).

The Court's Order of January 12, 2015 directed the parties to file cross-motions for summary judgment "limited to the issue of whether the reinstatement of the Grievant by the Buchheit Arbitration Award is or would be contrary to Pennsylvania public policy." (Doc. 23). Further, this Court ordered the parties to "separately brief the issue of whether this Court has jurisdiction to determine the amount, if any, of back pay owing to the Grievant should this Court find the Buchheit Arbitration Award to be enforceable." Id.

The Union and Hospital have each moved for summary judgment (Docs. 24, 25) and all briefing has been completed with respect to the cross-motions. For the reasons that follow, the Hospital's Motion for Summary Judgment, which asserts that the Buchheit Arbitration Award of reinstatement "is void as contrary to well-defined public policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" (Doc. 25, ¶ 6), will be denied and the Union's Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. 24), insofar as it seeks to confirm and enforce the Buchheit Labor Arbitration Award, will be granted. The issue of the Grievant's entitlement to back pay, if any, will be remanded to Arbitrator Buchheit. The Union's Motion for Summary Judgment, insofar as it seeks pre-judgment interest, will be deferred until Arbitrator Buchheit issues his Award on remand to him of the issue of the Grievant's entitlement to back pay. The Union's Motion for attorney's fees will be held in abeyance pending the Arbitrator's award on remand.

The procedural history of this case is otherwise recounted in this Court's Memorandum Opinion of January 12, 2015 (Doc. 22, at 1–6).

It suffices at this juncture to again note that the Union and the Hospital were parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") for the period of November 10, 2011 through February 28, 2013. (Doc. 1, Ex. A). The CBA contained a grievance procedure which provided for the submission of unresolved disputes between the Union and the Hospital to arbitration. The CBA, in Section 4.6, provided that "[t]he award of an arbitrator hereunder shall be final, conclusive and binding upon the Hospital, the Union and the employees including all disputes regarding Management's application of the Americans With Disabilities Act." (Id. at 7). On February 3, 2012, the Hospital terminated the employment of employee, Roberta Robbins, on the claim that she had been sleeping on duty during the night of February 1, 2012. The Union filed a Grievance on behalf of Ms. Robbins, which asserted that she had been discharged without just cause and their discipline was imposed without the interview provided for in Section 5.2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

When the parties were unable to resolve the Robbins Grievance, it was submitted to arbitration. Arbitrator Scott E. Buchheit was selected by the parties to serve as a Neutral Arbitrator to hear and decide the Grievance.

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Arbitrator Buchheit conducted a hearing on December 11, 2012, and on April 26, 2013, he issued his Opinion and Award in which he sustained in part and denied in part the Robbins Grievance and issued the following Award:


The grievance is sustained in part and denied in part. For the sustained portion of the grievance, the Employer shall reinstate the Grievant to her former position with full seniority, but without back pay or other benefits lost as a result of her termination.

(Doc. 1, Ex. B, at 37).

When the Hospital did not reinstate the Grievant, the Union brought this action to enforce the Buchheit Arbitration Award.

II. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts

In addition to the facts which have been alleged in the Union's Complaint and admitted in the Hospital's Answer as set forth in this Court's Memorandum granting in part the Union's Motion For Judgment On the Pleadings (Doc. 22, at 1–12), the Union submitted a Statement of Material Facts in accordance with Local Rule 56.1. (Doc. 24–1). All of the Union's statements of material fact identified herein have been admitted by the Hospital. (See Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Statement of Mat. Facts, Doc. 29–2).

The paragraphs of the Union's Statement of Material Facts recite the identities of the parties to this case; the existence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between them; the inclusion in the Collective Bargaining Agreement of a grievance and arbitration procedure which defines a "grievance" and sets forth the procedure for addressing grievances and for the submission of unresolved grievances to final and binding arbitration; and further providing that the award of an arbitrator under the grievance-arbitration procedure "shall be final, conclusive and binding upon the Hospital, the Union and the employees...." (Doc. 24–1, ¶¶ 3–7). The Union's Statement of Material Facts also recites the Union's ability to contest the discharge or suspension of any employee through the grievance procedure, but also notes that under Section 5.1 of the CBA, the Hospital "shall have the right to discharge, suspend or discipline any employee for just cause." (Id. at ¶¶ 8–9). Paragraph 10 of the Union's Statement of Material Facts sets forth Section 5.2 of the CBA;

Where an employee is to be suspended or discharged, and the employee is required to attend a disciplinary interview, no disciplinary action shall be imposed until after the interview. The parties recognize that while a disciplinary interview normally precedes a suspension or discharge, there are circumstances which reasonably require immediate disciplinary action prior to such interview. Any employee required to attend a disciplinary interview or meeting shall be notified of their right to have a Union Delegate present at such interview or meeting and shall be given reasonable advanced notice of the time, place and nature of the meeting and shall be provided the right to have a Union representative accompany them. All discipline shall be carried out as soon as is reasonably possible after the Employer becomes aware of the facts giving rise to the discipline in question.

(Id. at ¶ 10).

Paragraph 11 of the Union's Statement cites Section 5.3 of the CBA, which provides;

The Hospital and the Union agree that progressive discipline should not be imposed where the previous disciplinary action was more than one (1) year ago.

(Id. at ¶ 11).

The Union's Statement asserts that "Roberta Robbins was an employee of the

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Hospital from November 2002 to February 2012. She worked as a CT Scan Technician. Robbins was in a unit of employees represented by SEIU and covered by the CBA between the parties." (Id. at ¶ 12). The Statement then recites that on or about February 1, 2012, the Hospital suspended Roberta Robbins for sleeping on duty and terminated her on February 3, 2012. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 13–14). The Union then filed a Grievance protesting the termination of Ms. Robbins, which stated that the Employer "in violation of, but not limited to, Article 5.1, 5.2, 5.3—just cause, and the employee was not present at any disciplinary interview, and termination was imposed without the interview. The employee was not given advanced notice of meeting/interview." (Doc. 24–1, ¶ 15).

When the Grievance was not resolved pursuant to the grievance procedure, the Union referred the Grievance to arbitration. In accordance with the provisions of the CBA, Arbitrator Scott E. Buchheit was appointed to serve as the Neutral Arbitrator to decide the Union's Grievance. A hearing was held before Arbitrator Buchheit on December 11, 2012, at which the Union and the Hospital were permitted...

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