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MERCY HOSPITAL PITTSBURGH v. PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION (11/04/82)

decided: November 4, 1982.

THE MERCY HOSPITAL OF PITTSBURGH, A NON-PROFIT CORPORATION, APPELLEE,
v.
THE PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION, AN AGENCY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT



No. 30 WD Appeal Docket 1982, Appeal from the Order of Commonwealth Court at at No. 84 C.D. 1982

COUNSEL

Ellen M. Doyle, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Pa. Human Relations Commission, Michael L. Foreman, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

F. Regan Nerone, Cauley, Birsic & Conflenti, Cynthia M. Maleski, John W. Latella, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ.

Author: Nix

[ 499 Pa. Page 134]

OPINION

On December 1, 1981, Howard T. Pfupajena, M.D. (Pfupajena) filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) alleging that he was denied

[ 499 Pa. Page 135]

    staff privileges in its Division of Thoraic and Cardio Vascular Surgery by The Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh (Hospital) because of his race, Black, and his national origin, Zimbabwean, in violation of Section 5(a) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Act), 43 P.S. § 951 et seq., as amended (1981-82 Supp). Notice of the complaint was served upon the Hospital on December 8, 1981 along with notice of PHRC's requirements pertaining to: Response to Allegations, Fact-Finding Conference, Request for Documents and a Statement of Position. A fact-finding conference was scheduled by PHRC for January 14, 1982.

On January 13, 1982, Hospital filed a Petition for Review with the Commonwealth Court seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, or in the alternative, the issuance of a writ of prohibition against PHRC restraining it from investigating or otherwise proceeding on the complaint. After a hearing on January 13, 1982, before the Honorable David W. Craig, the request for a temporary restraining order was denied. On April 8, 1982, Judge Craig heard oral argument and on that date entered an order overruling PHRC's preliminary objections challenging the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court and enjoining PHRC from investigating or otherwise proceeding on the merits of Pfupajena's complaint except to determine the issue of PHRC's jurisdiction over the matter. The Commonwealth Court explained its ruling as follows:

The clear intent of the order, in this unprecedented situation, is to permit the Commission to move forward with the resolution of the doctor's complaint, cutting short the wasteful procedural infighting in which the hospital and Commission are now engaged; if the Commission, pursuant to an initial hearing upon jurisdiction, determines that there is an employment relationship, it has the option, pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 702(b) also to permit immediate appellate review of that jurisdictional question, so that if its jurisdiction is affirmatively established as a final matter, the merits of the discrimination complaint

[ 499 Pa. Page 136]

    can be effectively resolved. On the other hand, if the Commission itself were to determine that jurisdiction is absent, the necessity of a simultaneous resolution ...


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