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05/13/97 KRISTINE W. HOLT v. NORTHWEST PENNSYLVANIA

May 13, 1997

KRISTINE W. HOLT, APPELLANT
v.
NORTHWEST PENNSYLVANIA TRAINING PARTNERSHIP CONSORTIUM, INC.; WILLIAM LALLEY, DIRECTOR, JOB CENTER FIELD OPERATIONS; LINDA TRIMPEY, DIRECTOR, ERIE REGIONAL OFFICE; DONALD ERRERA, MANAGER, VENANGO AREA JOB CENTER, ALL EMPLOYEES OF DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA; BARBARA FRAMPTON, COMMISSIONER, CLARION COUNTY; IVAN ROSE, COMMISSIONER, CRAWFORD COUNTY; STEPHAN HALE, COMMISSIONER, FORREST COUNTY; JONATHAN HUTCHINSON, COMMISSIONER, AND GERALD BRITTON, WARDEN OF VENANGO COUNTY PRISON, VENANGO COUNTY; JOHN DONALDSON, COMMISSIONER, WARREN COUNTY



Appealed From No. 1476 - 1994. Common Pleas Court of the County of Venango. Judge BREENE, Senior Judge.

Before: Honorable James Gardner Colins, President Judge, Honorable Bernard L. McGINLEY, Judge, Honorable Doris A. Smith, Judge, Honorable Dan Pellegrini, Judge, Honorable Rochelle S. Friedman, Judge, Honorable James R. Kelley, Judge, Honorable Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Judge. Opinion BY Judge Pellegrini. Dissenting Opinion BY President Judge Colins. Judge Friedman joins in this Dissenting opinion.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pellegrini

OPINION BY JUDGE PELLEGRINI

FILED: May 13, 1997

Kristine Holt appeals from the June 16, 1995 and September 5, 1995 orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Venango County (trial court). The first order dismissed Counts I through VII of Holt's complaint on preliminary objections and denied her petition to amend; the second order granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of the defendants on Counts VIII and IX.

Kristine Holt was hired by Northwest Pennsylvania Training Partnership Consortium, Inc. (NPTPC) as Richard Holt in June of 1989 as an Employability Assessment Specialist as part of a federal jobs program under the Job Training and Partnership Act. *fn1 NPTPC is a social service agency administering publicly assisted job training to economically disadvantaged persons in a five-county area in Northwest Pennsylvania. *fn2 Holt was assigned to the Venango Area Job Center in Oil City, Pennsylvania. *fn3

In July of 1992, Holt informed his supervisor that he was diagnosed as a transsexual, and that he planned to undergo a medically recommended transition from male to female pursuant to a standard medical protocol. Part of the recommended transition included that Holt assume the female role by dressing and presenting herself as a woman. Although NPTPC initially accepted Holt's transition, and directed its staff to treat Holt "professionally, and with respect," in September 1992, it informed Holt that he would be disciplined for violations of employer policy if he dressed as a woman.

In October 1992, Holt changed his name from Richard to Kristine. In November 1992, Holt began to adopt a female identity and began to dress as a woman. Though a unisex restroom had initially been created to accommodate her, the restroom accommodations were subsequently rescinded. A few weeks after Holt began dressing as a woman, the Job Center manager ousted Holt from the workplace, whereupon Holt was then reassigned to NPTPC's main office. However, in December of 1992, Holt was dismissed for allegedly violating employer policy regarding the dress code after she began dressing in a unisex fashion at work. NPTPC was also advised by the warden at the Venango County Jail, Warden Britton, that because of safety concerns, Holt would no longer be permitted to enter the jail to conduct assessment interviews either as a male or a female.

Holt filed a nine-count complaint *fn4 naming the following parties as defendants:

(1) NPTPC;

(2) members of the NPTPC Regional Governing Board who were Commissioners from each of the five counties served by NPTPC (collectively, Commissioners); *fn5

(3) employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (collectively, Commonwealth defendants); *fn6

(4) Gerald L. Britton, the Venango County prison warden.

As to the gravamen of Holt's complaint, Counts I through III pertained to NPTPC and the Commissioners as members of its Governing Board:

. Count I alleged unlawful discrimination against an employee based on a non-job-related handicap or disability in violation of Section 5(a) and (b)(5) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). *fn7

. Count II alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress.

. Count III alleged violation of Executive Order 1988-1 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a non-job-related handicap or disability or on the basis of sexual orientation by a contractor or grantee receiving funds from an agency under the jurisdiction of the Governor.

Counts IV through VII pertained to the Commonwealth defendants, who were three employees of the Pennsylvania ...


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