Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Hear Issue of First Impression Affecting All Pennsylvania Businesses, Employers and Employees

On August 3, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted Elliott Greenleaf’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal concerning an issue that impacts virtually all Pennsylvania businesses, employers and employees.  In this issue of first impression, the Supreme Court will decide whether former employees have the right, under the Inspection of Employment Records Law (Act 286 of 1978), to require employers to provide access to the personnel file concerning an employee after the employment relationship has ended.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry alleged, and the Commonwealth Court then agreed, that a former employee has the statutory right to require the employer to permit access to the personnel file. However, the statute at issue defines “employee” (for purposes of this right to inspect the personnel file) as being persons who are “currently employed,laid off with reemployment rights or on leave of absence.”  In the Petition for Allowance of Appeal granted by the Supreme Court, Elliott Greenleaf argued that the statute’s plain language clearly addresses current employees with an ongoing relationship with the employer, and not former employees who are permanently separated from employment.  Elliott Greenleaf’s Petition also points out that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has repeatedly rejected proposed statutory amendments to expand the definition to add former employees, and that the Department’s position is a legally flawed attempt to rewrite the statute in ways expressly rejected by the General Assembly.

Elliott Greenleaf’s Frederick P. Santarelli, Aimee L. Kumer and Sherine N. Bediako represent the employer, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Inc.  v. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (Pa. Supreme Court, Docket No. 30 EAP 2016).