Are Probationary Officers Entitled to Hearings Upon Their Dismissal ?
In Upper Makefield, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board had ordered the township to arbitrate the dismissal of a probationary officer, and the Supreme Court reversed.
It explained its reversal as follows:
A probationary employee is being tested or evaluated on the job.
The time limit signals that the evaluation period will not last forever before a decision is made pursuant to which the employee will either be retained and thereby vested with the full rights and responsibilities of the non-probationary employee or will be terminated, having not completed the probationary period satisfactorily.
As this creates a strictly "at will" relationship between the employer and employee during the probationary period, a probationary employee is not entitled to register a grievance should he or she not be retained past the probationary period.
Those officers covered by the umbrella of Act 111 have passed their probationary period satisfactorily and assume a status protected by the right to bargain collectively and to have their grievances heard.
Unless the terms of an officer's probationary period specifically grant him avenues of redress, the relationship is strictly at will and terminable by either side for the duration of the probationary period. Id. at 118, 753 A.2d at 806.
The Supreme Court concluded that absent language in a collective bargaining agreement that "would refute the at-will status of probationary officers," the statute under which the probationary officers were hired, such as the Borough Code, governs and not Act 111. Id.
Following Upper Makefield, this Court held that the Commonwealth could unilaterally stop giving hearings to probationary state troopers upon their dismissal because they were not entitled to such hearings. Pennsylvania State Police v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 764 A.2d 92 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000), aff'd per curiam, 570 Pa. 595, 810 A.2d 1240 (2002).