Harrisburg Area Community College v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

<p>IN THE COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA Harrisburg Area Community College, : Petitioner : : No. 654 C.D. 2019 v. : : Argued: May 11, 2020 Pennsylvania Human Relations : Commission, : Respondent : BEFORE: HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge HONORABLE J. ANDREW CROMPTON, Judge OPINION BY JUDGE McCULLOUGH FILED: October 29, 2020 Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) petitions for review from the March 26, 2019 interlocutory order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), which denied HACC’s motion to dismiss Holly Swope’s (Swope) PHRC complaint for legal insufficiency.1 1 After the PHRC issued its interlocutory order, HACC sought permission to appeal to this Court, pursuant to section 702(b) of the Pennsylvania Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. §702(b), and Rule 1311 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, Pa.R.A.P. 1311. On September 11, 2019, we granted HACC’s petition for permission to appeal the PHRC’s interlocutory order. Thereafter, HACC filed an application to amend the PHRC’s order to authorize immediate appellate review in accordance with section 702(b) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. §702(b). Although the PHRC granted HACC’s application in a supplemental order issued on May 7, 2019, as we concluded in our September 11, 2019 order granting HACC’s permissive appeal, because the PHRC issued the supplemental order more than 30 days after the application had been filed, the application was deemed denied pursuant to Rule 1311(b) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, Pa.R.A.P. 1311(b). “Where the administrative agency . . . refuses to amend its order to include the prescribed statement, a petition for review under Chapter 15 of the unappealable order of denial is the proper (Footnote continued on next page…) Background HACC operates a nursing program that provides students the opportunity to earn an associate degree and become eligible to take the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing’s registered nurse licensing examination. Once admitted to the program, students must successfully complete a series of nursing courses that feature both class work and clinical training. HACC requires all candidates in the nursing program, on an annual basis, to submit to a urine screening test for the presence of drugs, and if they test positive, they will be removed from the nursing program. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 197a.) On October 25, 2018, Swope filed a discrimination complaint with the PHRC. As alleged in the complaint, Swope has a disability due to suffering from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. According to the complaint, Swope is able to complete the essential components of HACC’s nursing program as long as she is granted the reasonable accommodation of being permitted to take her legally prescribed medical marijuana medication. (PHRC Complaint ¶¶ 6-8, R.R. at 197a.) Also according to the complaint, in July 2018, Swope informed Jill Lott (Lott), HACC’s Director of Nursing, of her medical condition and requested that she be permitted to use the medical marijuana she had been prescribed by her physician as an accommodation for her disability. Swope alleged in the complaint that Lott ...</p><br>
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