This post was authored by Adam Santucci and Daniel Serrano.  Adam is the Chair of the Public Finance and Government Services Group at McNees.  Danny is a CAMP 1L Intern with McNees.  Danny is currently a student at the Pennsylvania State University and expects to earn his J.D. in May of 2023.

On June 23, 2021, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist. v. B.L., holding that a high school’s interest in preventing students from using vulgar language to criticize school sports teams or staff does not override students’ rights to free expression under the First Amendment. The Court made clear that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression” even “at the school house gate.”

Here is the background.  After being denied a position on the school’s varsity cheerleading team, B.L., a ninth-grader at Mahanoy Area School District, messaged a group of 250 “friends” on the social media platform Snapchat, where she expressed frustration with the school and cheerleading team. Her messages used “vulgar language and gestures” while criticizing the school and cheerleading team. Although the images and messages were set to expire within 24 hours, the images spread throughout the school and were brought to the attention of the cheerleading coaches. As a result, the school suspended B.L. from cheerleading for a year.  In response to the school’s disciplinary actions, B.L.’s parents appealed the suspension to the school board with no success. When that failed, they sought relief in federal court.
Continue Reading Cheerleader’s Vulgar Snapchat Trashing Cheer Team is Protected Speech

Many Pennsylvania municipalities in recent years have struggled to rein in their Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) liabilities. OPEB benefits are retirement benefits a public employer has promised to provide its retired employees, other than pension payments. Benefits might include life insurance premiums, post-retirement healthcare, dental and vision benefits and other types of benefits.

OPEB benefits are typically funded using one of two methods: (i) the pay-as-you-go method, which is generally paid each year from the municipality’s general fund; or (2) or an OPEB trust. A trust is typically established through an initial and then subsequent transfers of funds.   The trust funds are invested and the principal and interest are used to pay for the promised OPEB benefits.
Continue Reading Budgeting for OPEB Liabilities with an OPEB Trust

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the appeals court that has jurisdiction over federal cases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U. S. Virgin Islands, recently held that a public employer violates the First Amendment of the United State Constitution when it retaliates against an employee based on the employee’s union membership.  In reaching its conclusion, the Court distinguished between First Amendment “free speech” claims and First Amendment “association” claims.

Continue Reading Court Holds Union Membership ‘Worthy of Constitutional Protection’

It appears that a number of labor unions are planning for the potential negative impact of a big decision regarding fair share fees.  We have heard from several public sector clients who have been contacted directly, or who have had employees contacted, by labor unions about the potential impact of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court.  The case, which could ultimately declare fair share fees unlawful, is expected to be released before the end of June of 2018.
Continue Reading Some Unions Planning for Impact of Big Decision on Fair Share Fees

This post was originally featured on the McNees Labor and Employment Blog.

Back in 2015, Pittsburgh enacted a paid sick leave ordinance, following a trend among cities throughout the country. Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave ordinance required employers with fifteen employees or more to provide up to forty hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. Employers with less than fifteen employees were not spared. The ordinance required that those employers provide up to twenty-four hours per calendar year. The impact: 50,000 workers would receive paid sick leave.

But, what authority did Pittsburgh have to impose such a requirement?
Continue Reading A Tale of Two Cities: The Demise of Pittsburgh’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and the Durability of Philadelphia’s

Yeah, I know, crazy right? Here is the story. Apparently the Union did not think so. When the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (“Union”) and the City of Philadelphia (“City”) could not reach terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, they submitted the dispute to binding interest arbitration.

The Union was seeking