The Responsibility of Public Employers In Pennsylvania

In Greene County v. District 2, United Mine Workers of America, 578 Pa. 347, 852 A.2d 299 (2004), the Supreme Court recognized the important responsibility of public employers: 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. Id. at 362, 852 A.2d at 308. To allow a public employer to relinquish those fundamental rights, which go to the very heart of its ability to protect and serve the public, places the public at risk from a variety of harms, ranging from inadequate public service to the risks associated with dishonest or predatory employees. As common pleas aptly noted: To inhibit the City's ability to assure the integrity of its workforce through the sanction of discharge, and thereby subject its citizens to criminality, obviously impairs the City's ability to effectively provide a governmental service since its ability to assure taxpayers that governmental functions are being honestly performed has been compromised. Every citizen has a right to expect he or she will be honestly served by those who perform functions supported by that citizen's tax dollars. And each citizen has a right to expect those who manage the public's business will assure publicly supported functions do not present an opportunity for public employees to substitute service for theft. . . . Public trust in government is premised, at least in part, on the honesty of the public's employees. the inability to sanction dishonest public employees with discharge undermines the public's trust.