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New Public Meeting Requirements Under the Sunshine Act

By Gretchen K. Love, Esq. and Julie A. Aquino, Esq.


Published on: Wed 14th Jul, 2021 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

Effective August 29, 2021, government agencies covered under the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, including local governments, must make meeting agendas available to the public 24 hours in advance of public meetings. These new rules are pursuant to recent amendments (“Act 65”) to the Sunshine Act, signed by Governor Wolf on June 30, 2021. Under Act 65, if an agency has a public website, the meeting agenda must be posted on the website no later than 24 hours prior to the start of the meeting. The agenda must also be posted, 24 hours in advance, at the agency’s principal office and at the ...

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CDC Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals Impacts Pennsylvania’s Masking Order


Published on: Thu 20th May, 2021 By: Patrick J. Harvey

By Patrick J. Harvey and Paul N. Lalley, Campbell Durrant, P.C. On May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued revised guidance for individuals who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 that significantly changes the rules with respect to mask wearing and social distancing. The CDC guidance is immediately applicable to Pennsylvania employers due to a previous amendment to the Commonwealth’s Mask Order allowing exceptions to that Order based upon CDC guidance. So, what did the CDC say? Fully vaccinated people are not required to wear a mask or to socially distan...

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U.S. Treasury Issues Guidance Regarding American Rescue Plan Act Funding for Local Governments


Published on: Mon 17th May, 2021 By: David E. Mitchell

By David E. Mitchell, Esq. and Jonathan Whalen, Esq. On May 10, 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury issued its initial guidance and draft regulations regarding the proper use of Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund money being distributed to municipalities under the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”). Although the initial guidance raises some new questions, it provides several important answers and fills in some critical gaps in the statutory language. ARPA permits local governments receiving Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund money to use it for expenditures...

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Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter Clarifying Compensability of Travel Time for Teleworking Employees


Published on: Mon 3rd May, 2021 By: Jonathan F. Whalen

With the prevalence of remote work due to the pandemic, employers are asking how non-exempt employees are compensated if they travel from their home office to a work site within the same work day. The U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") issued an Opinion Letter on December 31, 2020 addressing this question against the backdrop of the following principles: 1) the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") requires that employees be compensated for "working," which means that they must be compensated for actions taken "for the benefit of the employer," 2) an employee does not need to be paid for hours that ...

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American Rescue Plan Act and Temporary COBRA Subsidies For Qualifying Individuals


Published on: Mon 3rd May, 2021 By: Julie A. Aquino

The 2021 American Rescue Plan Act includes important new COBRA subsidies, effective April 1 through September 30, 2021. Compliance with the new program is mandatory and it applies broadly to almost all employers and health plans. The COBRA subsidy program is mandatory for any group health plan sponsored by an employer, union, or state or local government that is subject to COBRA, and to those enrolled in group health insurance under state mini-COBRA laws. For employees involuntarily terminated and eligible for COBRA, the terminated employee is not responsible for the monthly COBRA continua...

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Police Hiring: Municipalities cannot blindly rely on psychological evaluations to reject applicants.


Published on: Mon 15th Mar, 2021 By: Brian P. Gabriel

By: Brian P. Gabriel, Esq. and Hobart J. Webster, Esq. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a decision granting the City of Pittsburgh’s motion to dismiss in Christophe Gibbs v. City of Pittsburgh, holding that the results of a pre-employment psychological evaluation will not insulate a municipality from discrimination claims and that the allegations were sufficient for the case to proceed. When Gibbs applied to be a Pittsburgh police officer, he “aced the written test and got a conditional job offer.” As required by 37 Pa. Code § 203.11(a)(7), Gibbs had to be “...

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Quarantine Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated Employees


Published on: Wed 3rd Mar, 2021 By: Julie A. Aquino

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be distributed, employers are asking whether fully vaccinated employees are required to quarantine after close contact with a person positive for the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the answer is that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, other than inpatients and residents in health care settings, do not need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure if they meet all three of the following criteria: 1. The individual is fully vaccinated. Full vaccination means that it has been at le...

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FMLA in the COVID-19 Universe


Published on: Wed 3rd Mar, 2021 By: COVID-19

By: Julie A. Aquino, Esq. In 2020, employers were navigating the leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) which expired at the end of 2020. Employers now have questions about COVID-19 related leave under the regular, pre-pandemic Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). While ordinary FMLA leave will apply to certain COVID-19 related absences, employers should not assume that all COVID-related scenarios qualify for FMLA leave. Each leave request should be assessed based on the individual facts involved. An employee experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that...

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Commonwealth Court: Non-Civil Service Borough Police Chief Can’t Claim Civil Service Protection From Dismissal


Published on: Wed 3rd Mar, 2021 By: Paul N. Lalley

In a decision issued on February 10, 2021, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former borough police chief whose position was eliminated by Borough Council. The decision in Romutis v. Borough of Ellwood City ruled that the Borough Code authorizes the hiring of a police chief outside of the civil service process, and that a police chief who is so hired lacks the statutory protection from dismissal of the Borough Code’s civil service provisions. Chief Romutis was hired as the Borough of Ellwood City’s Chief of Police in 2010. The Borough did not hire Ro...

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Certification under the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities

Published in the January, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Wed 20th Jan, 2021 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

In June of 2020 President Trump signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities (“the Order”). Among other items, the Order conditions eligibility to receive DOJ discretionary grant funding on state or local law enforcement agencies having received or seeking certification from a credentialing agency of the following two (2) conditions: (1) The State or local law enforcement agency’s use-of-force policies adhere to all applicable Federal, State, and local laws; and (2) The State or local law enforcement agency’s use-of-force policies prohibit the use of chok...

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COVID-19 Vaccinations and Employment Considerations: Vaccination requirements may be a shot in the dark

Published in the January, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Wed 20th Jan, 2021 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorizations (“EUAs”) for two (2) COVID-19 vaccines which are now being distributed nationwide. These vaccines, and others which will follow, are important life-saving breakthroughs and their rapid development are remarkable achievements in the field of medical science. However, the question of whether employers can require that their employees receive the vaccine is a complicated one. From what we know now, EEOC guidance indicates an employer can implement policies requiring their employees be vaccinated against COVID...

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The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act Does Not Require Accommodation of Medical Marijuana Use

Published in the November, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Wed 25th Nov, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

In Harrisburg Area Community College v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court has ruled that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) does not require accommodation of a student’s use of medical marijuana. The case involved a PHRC charge brought by a student in HACC’s nursing program who was prescribed medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder and irritable bowel syndrome. The student brought the charge to challenge HACC’s policy that required nursing students to pass a drug test. School officials refused to permit the student an...

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Managing Risks In The New Phase of COVID-19.

Published in the November, 2020 PELRAS Municipal Reporter


Published on: Tue 17th Nov, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

As we move into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that municipal employers have updated policies and sound risk management strategies designed to keep the workplace as safe as is possible. This is particularly true as the United States experiences its first consecutive days of more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19, even before entering the traditional flu season. Many municipalities did not adopt or have not revisited their COVID-19 policies and procedures since the early days of the pandemic. In order to successfully mitigate risk, municipal employers must review the...

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Pennsylvania Excludes Governmental Employers from State Overtime Regulations

Published in the October, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Thu 22nd Oct, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

The Department of Labor and Industry (“Department”) issued the final version of its new overtime regulations interpreting the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“Act”) on October 3, 2020, but there is good news for municipalities and other governmental employers. In commentary issued with the new regulations, the Department confirmed its position that its overtime regulations “have been and continue to be inapplicable to public employers, including State-affiliated entities, counties, municipalities and public-school systems” and that nothing in the new Pennsylvania overtime r...

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DOL Issues Major Change to Intermittent FFCRA Leave for Parents of Children Enrolled in Hybrid and Rotating Education Programs

Published in the September, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Mon 28th Sep, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

With the start of the new school year and the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) recent updates to regulations and Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) about leaves under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), many employers in Pennsylvania have questions about intermittent leave requests from parents whose children attend schools using an alternating day or hybrid online and in-person instructional model. The original FFCRA regulations clearly stated that intermittent leave due to a school closing is permitted only when the employer and employee both agree. Th...

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“Return to School” FAQ’s Released by the U.S. Department of Labor

Published in the September, 2020 issue of the PELRAS newsletter


Published on: Mon 14th Sep, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

Working and parenting in 2020 is no easy task. Neither is keeping up-to-date with U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) FAQs regarding employee leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). When Congress passed the FFCRA in March 2020, it was reacting quickly to the pandemic and immediate school closures. Congress did not envision in March that school districts nationwide would be facing difficult decisions in August about how to return to school. In its August 27, 2020 FAQs, the U.S. DOL provided the following guidance regarding return to school and application of leav...

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EEOC Releases Guidance on Employee Use of Codeine, Oxycodone and Other Opioids

Published in the September, 2020 issue of the PELRAS newsletter


Published on: Mon 14th Sep, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

Opioid medications are often prescribed legally but are tied to addiction problems and may impact the safe performance of job duties. For this reason, the EEOC recently released guidance clarifying the agency’s views regarding opioid addiction and employment discrimination, a full copy of which is available on the EEOC’s website. “Opioids” include prescription drugs, among others, such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Oxycontin, Percocet, Demerol, and Vicodin. “Opioids” also include Suboxone or Subutex and methadone, which are prescribed to treat addiction in a Medicat...

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Governor Wolf Signs Police Reform Measures Into Law: Police departments should begin to prepare for when the new legal requirements become effective in one year.

Published in the July, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Fri 17th Jul, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

On July 14th Governor Wolf signed into law a police background check bill and a police post-traumatic stress bill. The requirements of both laws become effective one year from today but municipal police departments should start implementing the requirements of both laws well before the July 14, 2021 deadline. The background check law, Act 57 of 2020, is designed to make information regarding the employment and separation of police officers more readily available to law enforcement agencies that are hiring police officers. The law requires that the hiring law enforcement agency must conduc...

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EEOC Issues Updated Guidance on COVID-19 and EEOC Laws

Published in the July, 2020 issue of the PELRAS newsletter


Published on: Tue 7th Jul, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

On June 11, 2020 and June 17, 2020, the EEOC updated its Question and Answer document on COVID-19 and equal employment opportunity laws. The EEOC confirmed that employers are not required to provide accommodations for disabilities of family members of employees. The EEOC also announced that although employers may test employees to determine if they have an active case of COVID-19, employers may not require COVID-19 antibody testing.
The EEOC’s ...

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Commonwealth Court Rules that CBD User is Eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Published in the July, 2020 issue of the PELRAS newsletter


Published on: Tue 7th Jul, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

On May 11, 2020, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review’s (“Board”) order granting benefits to a Cannabidiol (“CBD”) user after her employment was terminated for testing positive for marijuana. Washington Health Sys. v. Unemployment Compensation Bd. of Rev., 2020 WL 2312347 (Pa. Commw. Ct. May 11, 2020). The majority opinion concluded that the employee was eligible for benefits because the employer did not submit the drug test result as evidence and thus failed to demonstrate that the employee violated its Drug and Alcohol Fre...

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Supreme Court Rules Title VII Protects Gay and Transgender Employees

Published in the June, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Wed 17th Jun, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

In a historic decision, the Supreme Court held that an employer who fires an individual for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In a 6-3 decision, the Court concluded that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination “because of sex” includes protections against employment decisions due to bias against gay and transgender employees. Before the Court were three cases each involving termination of an employee after the employer learned that the employee was homosexual or transgender. In writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that ...

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COBRA Election Deadlines Extended Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Published in the June, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Wed 3rd Jun, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

As part of a broad response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently implemented a Joint Notice extending deadlines applicable to the election of continued group health plan coverage pursuant to COBRA. The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (“COBRA”) permits individuals and their family who would otherwise be dropped by an employer’s health plan for a variety of qualifying reasons to elect continuation of coverage for a period of time by making payments equaling 102 percent of...

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Reversal in Carr v. PennDOT - Disciplining Public Employees for Social Media Postings

Published in the May, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Wed 27th May, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s decision in Carr v. PennDOT and held that a public employer may terminate a probationary employee based on messages she posted on a social networking website. In an Opinion authored by Justice Mundy and joined by Chief Justice Saylor and Justices Baer, Todd, Donohue, and Wecht, the Court determined that the Commonwealth Court failed to engage in the proper Pickering/Connick balancing of interests and thereby erred in reversing the Civil Service Commission’s order dismissing the probationary employee...

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Act 17 of 2020 Provides Sixty Days of COVID-19 Full Salary Benefits

Published in the April, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Thu 30th Apr, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

Governor Wolf on April 29, 2020 signed Act 17 of 2020 (“Act 17”) which provides full salary benefits to police, paid firefighters, and other covered employees for up to 60 days per incident if they are unable to work because they have contracted or been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are subject to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. All Pennsylvania municipalities and governmental employers should be careful in paying full salary benefits under Act 17 because it does not require proof of work-related causation. Any payment of such full salary benefits should only be made after the employ...

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Probationary Periods in Times of Pandemic: Don’t Let the Coronavirus Distract You from the Need to Effectively Evaluate New Employees

Published in the April, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Mon 27th Apr, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in profoundly significant ways, and there is as of now no clear end in sight to the changes which it has wrought. Municipalities across the Commonwealth have been forced to implement radical operational changes in response to rapidly evolving circumstances, and additional changes could be forthcoming as the situation continues to develop. However, the ongoing pandemic should not distract municipal employers from the need to evaluate those recently hired employees who are currently serving probationary periods. It is said that the m...

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Unemployment Compensation Improves for Employers and Employees under New Federal and State Laws

Published in the April, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Wed 8th Apr, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) and Pennsylvania Act 9 of 2020 became law on March 27, 2020 and contains several unemployment compensation enhancements that benefit both employers and employees. Section 2103 of the CARES Act provides important relief for employers that use the “reimbursable method” or, in other words, are self-insured for unemployment insurance compensation purposes instead of paying unemployment compensation taxes. Typically employers using the reimbursable method repay the Commonwealth for all of the unemployment...

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Now Is Not the Time to “Roll Over” a Collective Bargaining Agreement: Essential Collective Bargaining Steps for the Covid-19 Economic Crisis

Published in the April, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Tue 7th Apr, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

Unfortunately, even after the COVID-19 health crisis subsides municipalities will be faced with severe fiscal challenges when dealing with catastrophic losses in pension fund valuations and substantial losses in tax revenues. As the collective bargaining timelines under Act 111 and Act 195 approach, unions already have been requesting municipalities to “just roll over” existing collective bargaining agreements. Your answer to such requests should be an emphatic no. Municipalities must avoid the short term temptation to avoid any contract roll over due to the current maelstrom of COVID...

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Another Wave of COVID-19 Personnel Considerations

Published in the April, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Fri 3rd Apr, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

Since the start of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, many municipal employers across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have engaged in an extraordinary juggling act between fighting the spread of coronavirus in the community and workplace, maintaining public services and continuing to pay employees full salary even as they work reduced schedules. While some municipalities may plan on continuing such efforts in the short term, the sustainability of this arrangement will be questioned as municipal tax revenue declines. Municipalities need to be proactive in identifying cost savings through...

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Working Remotely During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Published on: Tue 17th Mar, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

Telecommuting or “telework” is defined in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 as, "a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of such employee's position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work." While the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 is only applicable to federal employees and it is not applicable to employees of local governments and private employers, it does provide some guidance for what it means to work remotely from an employer’s norm...

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EEOC Provides Coronavirus Guidance for Employers

Published in the March, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Thu 12th Mar, 2020 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently posted a guidance regarding preparedness in the workplace for Coronavirus (COVID-19). The guidance clarifies the ability of employers to take concrete steps in response to COVID-19, such as, among others, instructing employees with flu like symptoms to stay home from work. See the full guidance at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm. The EEOC explains that while the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) still applies during a pandemic, the ADA should not interfere with employers fo...

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New Immunity Exception under Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act Expands Municipal Liability Exposure

Published in the February, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Tue 4th Feb, 2020 By: Shon K. Worner

Except for specified exceptions, under Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, (“Tort Claims Act”) “no local agency shall be liable for any damages on account of an injury to person or property caused by an act of the local agency or an employee thereof or any other person.” 42 Pa. C.S. § 8541. An important new immunity exception was added to that list on November 26, 2019, when Governor Wolf signed Act 87 of 2019, which added “sexual abuse” as a new immunity exception to the Tort Claims Act. Per newly added §8542(9), “sexual abuse” is defined as “conduc...

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Important Amendment to Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law

Published in the January, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Tue 4th Feb, 2020 By: Shon K. Worner

Effective December 31, 2019, the Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law (“CPSL”) was again amended and the amendment removed the provisional period for employees who have direct contact with children to work for up to ninety (90) days prior to obtaining the required clearances. Accordingly, an employee who has direct contact with children may no longer begin that position until the employer has received proof of the three (3) clearances mandated by the state: (1) criminal history record obtained from the Pennsylvania State Police; (2) child abuse clearance obtained through the PA...

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Year-End Legislation Repeals High-Cost Health Insurance “Cadillac” Tax

Published in the January, 2020 PELRAS Scoop Articles


Published on: Mon 27th Jan, 2020 By: David E. Mitchell

The President recently signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (“SECURE Act”), funding the government through September 30, 2020 and averting a government shutdown. Among many other retirement and health care provisions, this year-end spending package contained a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) tax on high-cost health plans known as the “Cadillac Tax.” The Cadillac Tax was intended to curb the tax preferred treatment of employer-sponsored health plans, reduce excess health spending, and raise revenue to cover the costs o...

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Common Pleas Court Holds that Private Right of Action Exists Under Medical Marijuana Act

Published in the December, 2019 issue of the PELRAS newsletter


Published on: Fri 13th Dec, 2019 By: Brad J. Betack

In a case of first impression, the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas has recently held that the Medical Marijuana Act includes a private cause of action for aggrieved employees to bring discrimination claims against employers. Specifically, in Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems Inc., the Court held that although the Medical Marijuana Act does not explicitly permit a private right of action by an employee who is allegedly discriminated against because of medical marijuana use, it does so implicitly. The Medical Marijuana Act was passed on May 17, 2016, authorizing individuals wit...

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Social Media Policies: What Can and Can’t an Employer Prohibit?

Published in the December, 2019 issue of the PELRAS newsletter


Published on: Fri 13th Dec, 2019 By: Hobart J. Webster

Can a government employer discipline a public employee because of their social media post? The answer to this question is that famous lawyerly phrase, it depends. Luckily, three U.S. Supreme Court can help us answer that question: Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968), Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983), and Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006). Pickering remains the Supreme Court’s seminal case on the First Amendment rights of public employees. Pickering established the principle that public employees do not relinquish their right to speak on matters of public ...

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Don’t Forget to Renew Mandatory Background Clearances Under the CPSL!

Published in the December, 2019 issue of the PELRAS newsletter


Published on: Fri 13th Dec, 2019 By: Julie A. Aquino

In late 2014, the Pennsylvania General Assembly made sweeping changes to the Child Protective Services Law (“CPSL”), largely as a response to the Jerry Sandusky case. These changes impacted, among others, all paid employees and unpaid volunteers in Pennsylvania who have “direct contact with children” or who are responsible for the welfare of a child. 23 Pa.C.S. §§6344(a)(4), 6344.2(a). The law defines “direct contact with children” as “[t]he care, supervision, guidance or control of children and routine interaction with children.” The law defines “child” as an individua...

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