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News Summary

Pa. Supreme Court hears police tobacco ban lawsuit

Publication Date: 3/2/2009
  • Author:JOE MANDAK
  • Publication:Evening Sun

A state ban on smoking in most workplaces has taken much of the fire--but not the smokeless tobacco--out of a long-simmering dispute between a western Pennsylvania municipality and its police.

Attorneys for Ellwood City, its police union, and the Pennsylvania Labor Relations board argued before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday about whether Ellwood City has a right to ban tobacco use on borough property, including by its officers working in the police station and patrol cars.

The high court heard the arguments because the police union appealed the Commonwealth Court's 5-2 decision early last year overruling the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. The PLRB had found that Ellwood City committed an unfair labor practice when it subjected police to the August 2006 tobacco ban without submitting the issue to collective bargaining.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille interrupted the police union attorney, Eric Stoltenberg, by asking whether the Clean Indoor Air Act that took effect in September "mooted" the entire dispute...

Ellwood City's attorney, Edward Leymarie, took the argument one step further. He argued that if the state of Pennsylvania can ban workplace smoking affecting thousands of state employees, it should have been OK for Ellwood City to do the same.