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February 7, 2008

Pitt didn't discriminate against former employee, judge rules

A federal judge has found for Pitt in a discrimination lawsuit filed in July 2006 by a former employee.

Judge Terrence F. McVerry of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled Jan. 25 that Pitt had not discriminated on the basis of race against Deborah M. Furka, former director of Residence Life.

McVerry’s summary judgment ruling stated in part, “No reasonable fact finder could conclude that Furka was terminated due to her race. Far from presenting evidence to contradict the core facts upon which the employer relies … plaintiff (Furka) actually concedes the existence of the vast majority of those facts, including the existence of poor evaluations from her subordinates. …

“There is no factual basis to support a reasonable inference of any racial component to the evaluation, as many of the complaints came from other caucasian employees and Furka, a caucasian, was replaced by a caucasian.”

In addition to the race discrimination claim, Furka initially had sued the University for alleged discrimination on the basis of age, gender and a hostile work environment, but she requested dismissal of the latter claims voluntarily last October, according to court documents.

Furka was hired at Pitt in February 1998 as chief of police. In March 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.

The University terminated Furka from her position in January 2006.

—Peter Hart

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