Do Unemployment Compensation Board Decisions Affect Workers' Compensation Board Decisions ?

In Driscoll v. Carpenters Dist. Council of Western Pennsylvania, 525 Pa. 205, 579 A.2d 863 (1990), at issue were discriminatory practices in the operation of a labor union hiring hall. The Court held that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) was not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which was not the exclusive forum for claims of employment discrimination by a labor union employee who was free to proceed under Title VII as well as under the PHRA. More recently, in Bortz v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Reznor Div. of FL Industries), 546 Pa. 77, 683 A.2d 259 (1996), the Supreme Court held that a decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board does not have preclusive effect on a workers' compensation decision because every administrative agency in the Commonwealth is charged with enforcing its own acts which have different purposes; therefore, one agency's hands would be tied by the findings and conclusions of another without being allowed to make independent findings and conclusions and applying its own expertise to the facts. Because labor arbitrations are akin to "private administrative agencies" and the Commission is charged (unlike the Equal Employment Opportunities Agency) with adjudicating claims under the PHRA, 43 P.S. 957(g), the General Assembly did not intend any arbitration award to have a preclusive effect on claims of discrimination brought pursuant to the PHRA. When the General Assembly wants to allow arbitration as an alternative remedy, it has said so. Section 450 of the Workers' Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. 1000.6 (a), provides that "any employer and the recognized or certified and exclusive representative of its employe may agree by collective bargaining to establish certain binding obligations and procedures relating to workers' compensation: Provided, however, that the scope of the agreement shall be limited to: ... (2) an alternative dispute resolution system which may include, but is not limited to, arbitration, mediation and conciliation."