Commonwealth Court sides with City of Erie in employee's termination

By Gabriel Neves | Jan 22, 2019

HARRISBURG — The case of a former Erie city employee with legal troubles who was terminated from his job and then reinstated through an arbitration award is now a victory for the city.

Judge Patricia McCullough, on the bench of the Commonwealth Court, issued a 10-page ruling on Jan. 3 affirming the Erie County Court of Common Pleas' decision in the lawsuit filed by the City of Erie against General Teamsters Local Union No. 397.

The city sued the union regarding its former employee Kelly Kirsch, who was terminated from his employment, and had his job reinstated through a grievance filed at the union and an arbitration award in Kirsch's favor.

Working at a wastewater facility, Kirsch worked for the city starting as a part-time employee in 2004, becoming full-time five years later.

As stated in the ruling, Kirsch "was initially terminated from his employment effective March 17, 2015, based on a poor attendance history, multiple warnings, and three days of consecutive absences" which resulted of "arrest and incarceration on charges of driving under the influence and firearm possession charges."

After a grievance was filed, per the ruling, "following an arbitration hearing on Dec. 16, 2015, Arbitrator Robert A. Creo issued an opinion and award concluding that the City did not have just cause to terminate Grievant and directing that he be reinstated to his former position with full back pay."

The city petitioned to vacate the award, but its request was denied.

"On Jan. 13, 2016, two days before the City filed its petition to vacate the 2015 arbitration award with the trial court, Grievant was arrested and incarcerated on drug charges," the ruling said, forcing Kirsch to have another job termination.

Another grievance was filed, and it was confirmed by an arbitrator on Jun. 16, 2017.

The lower court vacated the award and the grievance.

In her ruling, McCullough sided with the City and confirmed the previous decision, stating that "the Arbitrator’s award directing Grievant’s reinstatement was neither rationally derived from, nor drew its essence from, the CBA," adding that "the trial court did not err in granting the City’s petition to vacate this award."

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Case No. is 150 C.D. 2018.

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