A Public Employer Cannot Bargain Away the Ability to Fire An Employee

In Greene County v. District 2, United Mine Workers of America, 578 Pa. 347, 852 A.2d 299 (2004), the Supreme Court explained why the authority of an arbitrator to interpret just cause is limited with respect to public employers. It stated as follows: The rationale expressed in our decision in City of Easton is rooted, in part, in the unique nature of the public employer in our Commonwealth.... Unlike private sector employers, public employers are ultimately responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of our communities. Due to their unique nature and role, public employers must be able to perform the functions they are charged to carry out by our citizenry. Consistent with this status, our Court has recognized that public employers cannot be compelled in arbitration to relinquish powers that are essential to the proper discharge of their functions.... Thus, while as a general proposition, an arbitrator has broad authority to interpret an undefined provision regarding termination for just cause in a collective bargaining agreement, Office of the Attorney General, to permit an arbitrator to interpret the agreement as to require reinstatement of an employee who was determined to have engaged in egregious misconduct that strikes at the very core function of the public enterprise would be to deprive the employer of its ability to discharge that essential function. Greene County, 578 Pa. at 362, 852 A.2d at 308. In short, a public employer cannot bargain away the ability to discharge an employee whose conduct strikes at the "core function of the public enterprise."