Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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This case comes to us for a second time to determine if the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) was exempted from the jurisdiction of the City of Philadelphia (the City) via the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (Philadelphia Commission) and the provisions of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (FPO). This case originated in seven administrative proceedings against SEPTA that individuals instituted with the Philadelphia Commission from July 2007 through April 2009, alleging violations of the FPO. At least two of the administrative complaints included claims of types of discrimination against which the FPO offers protection, but that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) did not cover. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court previously remanded this case to the Commonwealth Court to ascertain the legislative intent regarding this issue by employing the analysis set forth in “Dep‘t of Gen. Serv. v. Ogontz Area Neighbors Ass‘n,” (483 A.2d 448 (Pa. 1984)). On remand, the Commonwealth Court determined that, applying the Ogontz test, the language and statutory scheme of the relevant statutes revealed the legislature‘s intent to exempt SEPTA from actions brought under the FPO. The Supreme Court found the Commonwealth Court did not err in its determination that, under the first prong of the Ogontz analysis, the statutory language and legislative scheme of the enabling legislation disclosed the legislature‘s intent to exclude SEPTA from the jurisdiction of the FPO. The order of the Commonwealth Court was therefore affirmed. View "SEPTA v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Ralph Bailets was employed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission from 1998 to 2008. Appellant achieved “outstanding” and “commendable” performance ratings while employed as the Commission’s manager of financial reporting and systems. During this time, appellant frequently complained that he observed improprieties and wasteful practices regarding various matters, including a Commission computer systems contract with Ciber, Inc., EZPass discounts, politically motivated personnel actions, and the use of multiple, unnecessary external investment managers. Appellant’s job title and responsibilities were changed in June, 2008, he was removed from an additional position as assistant secretary-treasurer around the same time, and his employment by the Commission was ultimately terminated in November, 2008. Believing these actions were retaliation for his reports of wrongdoing and waste at the Commission, appellant filed a complaint in the Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction, alleging a single claim under the Whistleblower Law, against the Commission, Anthony Q. Maun, the Commission’s director of accounting; and Nikolaus H. Grieshaber, the Commission’s chief financial officer (collectively, appellees). In an unreported, single-judge opinion, Senior Judge Friedman held the decision to terminate appellant was “a management discretionary action, motivated by legitimate employer objectives.” The court concluded there were legitimate reasons for firing appellant, and there was nothing in the record establishing the decision makers who terminated his position were even aware of appellant’s reports of alleged wrongdoing and waste; the evidence instead showed 15 positions were eliminated in November, 2008, because of “a poor economy, declining traffic, and necessary expense reductions across the Commission.” After review, the Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court. The Court found sufficient evidence that appellant made prima face evidence of violations of the Whistleblower law, "which at the very least created issues of material fact to preclude the grant of summary judgment." View "Bailets v. Pa. Turnpike Commission" on Justia Law

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The trial court in this case denied Jane Doe's (a minor) application for judicial authorization for an abortion, reasoning, in significant part, that because the minor did not seek parental consent she was not "mature and capable" of giving informed consent independently. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of judicial authorization, finding no abuse of discretion. In this appeal, the Supreme Court examined the standard of review applicable to the trial court's denial, and had to determine whether the trial court may, under Pennsylvania law, deny judicial authorization based upon the minor’s failure to obtain parental consent. Upon review of the particular facts of this case, the Supreme Court held that the appeal would be reviewed under the "abuse of discretion" standard. Additionally, the Court held that a trial court lacks statutory authority to deny a minor's petition based on her failure to obtain parental consent. Premised upon these conclusions, the Court vacate the order of the Superior Court, which affirmed the order of the trial court. View "In the Interest of Jane Doe" on Justia Law