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July 20, 2006

Furka sues over firing

Deborah M. Furka, former director of Residence Life, has filed a federal suit again the University claiming sex discrimination. Furka was terminated Jan. 4 from her position, which is in the Division of Student Affairs.

According to the lawsuit, filed July 1 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Furka was terminated “for pretextual reasons and replaced with a younger male” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The lawsuit claims, “Plaintiff (Furka) had significantly more experience and specific field experience performing the functions of this position than did [her replacement]. Plaintiff was also far better qualified than [her replacement] to hold this particular position.”

Furka further alleges that she was given no warning prior to her firing that her job performance was unacceptable. The suit states, “At the time of her termination, plaintiff was told that her day-to-day management of her area and the performance of her duties were acceptable.”

According to the suit, Furka previously filed charges of age and sex discrimination and a hostile work environment jointly with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. The EEOC issued a right to sue notice on April 4, the federal suit states.

Furka was hired at Pitt in February 1998 as chief of police. She came to Pitt from Kean College in Union, N. J., where she had been director of public safety and chief of police since 1995.

In 2001, Pitt’s campus police department was split into two groups, and Furka was named director of Public Safety. She was named director of Residence Life in October 2003.

Furka is suing for lost wages, reinstatement and compensatory and punitive damages.

Pitt spokesperson John Fedele declined comment on the suit.

—Peter Hart

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