The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
2790 W. College Ave., Suite 800
State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
(814) 237-6255

Nurse Anesthetist Student terminated for refusing Drug Test in PA

A nurse anesthetist student at Bloomsburg University (Bloomsburg) was terminated from the Nurse Anesthetist Program (NAP) for refusing a drug test.  The NAP was a partnership between Bloomsburg, a public university and member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and Geisinger Medical Center (Geisinger), a private hospital.  Bloomsburg provided classroom instruction for the NAP program and Geisinger handled the clinical component.  After dismissal from the NAP program, the nursing student, Angela Borrell, filed a §1983 action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Bloomsburg and Geisinger claiming that she was deprived of her due process rights because she was dismissed from the program without a pre-deprivation hearing.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Borrell and awarded her $250,000.00 in compensatory damages and $750,000.00 in punitive damages.  The case took an 180˚turn when the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the District Court’s decision and entered judgment for the defendants.  The ruling, found a distinction in whether the director of the NAP program, a Geisinger employee, was wearing his Geisinger hat or his Bloomsburg hat when he terminated Borrell.  This is important distinction because Geisinger is a private hospital and its policies permitted termination for failure to submit to a drug test without offering any right to be heard.  Unlike the District Court, the Third Circuit found that the NAP director was not acting under the color of state law in that he had unilateral authority to terminate Borrell based on Geisinger’s employment policies.  Consequently, the protections afforded by Constitution regarding due process did not apply.

The legal authority created by this case raises a number of questions and scenarios that students working to obtain professional licensure encounter.  The decision to not take a drug test created collateral consequences that Borrell was probably not prepared to face.

If you or someone you know is working to obtain a professional license or certification in Pennsylvania and encounters questions or problems, they should consult a lawyer to find out how their rights may be affected.  A lawyer at The Mazza Law Group can help.

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