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HARMONY VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY AND RELIEF ASSOCIATION v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION (04/26/83)

decided: April 26, 1983.

HARMONY VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY AND RELIEF ASSOCIATION, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION, RESPONDENT. PAMELA WHITE MAGILL, INTERVENOR



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in case of Pamela White v. Harmony Volunteer Fire Company and Relief Association, Joseph Spienza, Secretary, No. E-15558, as amended; and in case of Frederich H. White v. Harmony Volunteer Fire Company and Relief Association, No. E-15989, as amended.

COUNSEL

Douglas G. Linn, II, Linn, Atwell & Associates, for petitioner.

Michael L. Foreman, Counsel, with him Ellen M. Doyle, Assistant General Counsel, for respondent.

Rita L. Bernstein, with her Susan Cary Nicholas, for intervenor, Pamela White Magill.

Phyllis N. Segal, with her Judith I. Avner and Kim Green, for intervenor, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Judges Rogers, Craig and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 597]

The Harmony Volunteer Fire Company and Relief Association (fire company) appeals from a decision and order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 598]

Commission, which found that the fire company had violated the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, as amended, 43 P.S. §§ 951-962.2 (act). After a public hearing, the hearing commissioners concluded that the fire company had rejected the membership application of Pamela White because of her sex, a violation of § 5(a) of the Act, 43 P.S. § 955(a).*fn1 The commission also concluded that the fire company had violated § 5(d) of the Act, 43 P.S. § 955(d),*fn2 by retaliating against Frederich H. White, a fire company member and Pamela White's father, because of his assistance and support of the complaint she had filed before the commission. The commission adopted the recommendations and conclusions of the hearing commissioners.*fn3

The fire company contends here that the commission did not have subject matter jurisdiction because the fire company is not an employer under the act.

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 599]

The company also argues that the record does not contain substantial evidence to support the commission's decision.

We must affirm an adjudication of an administrative agency unless the agency violated constitutional rights, made findings of fact not supported by substantial evidence or committed an error of law.*fn4 Following that standard, we must reject the fire company's contentions and affirm the order of the commission.

1. Factual Background

The fire company is a nonprofit corporation which voluntarily provides fire protection and emergency ambulance and rescue services for the Borough of Harmony, Pennsylvania. When Pamela White applied for membership, the constitution of the fire company, which provided the criteria for eligibility, required that firefighters be: (1) male, (2) eighteen or older, and (3) a resident of the territory which the company served.*fn5

In order to become a member, an interested person obtained an application from a member, completed the form and returned it to the company. An investigating committee of three members interviewed the applicant, and, if they approved him, signed the application and returned it to an officer. When the committee members knew the applicant ...


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