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Former New Ken-Arnold employee sues district over her and her husband's firings

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, 9:48 p.m.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review

A former administrative staffer in the New Kensington-Arnold School District has filed an age discrimination lawsuit in which she claimed she was fired in favor of a younger replacement.

The suit also claims that her husband, also a district employee, was fired several months after she first raised allegations of improprieties.

Leslie Toney, 58, now of Tarpon Springs, Fla., contends in the lawsuit filed in West-moreland County Court that she and her husband, both formerly of New Kensington, were targeted by school district officials and that both were improperly fired last year as a result of their complaints. Superintendent John Pallone did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.

According to the lawsuit, Toney worked as a district employee since 2003 and as a member of its human resources department since 2009. She was fired in June 2016, two months after she started a family medical leave.

Her replacement was, according to the lawsuit, a woman who was about 30 years younger than Toney.

According to the lawsuit filed on her behalf by attorney Larry Kerr, Toney claims she was retaliated against by Pallone in retaliation for an age discrimination complaint made with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.

While that complaint was under review, Toney contends her husband, Mike Orr, who served as the district's director of buildings and grounds for 13 years, was targeted with trumped-up disciplinary actions and was eventually fired in February in retaliation for her claims.

“Mr. Pallone wanted to retaliate against Ms. Toney. Since he had already fired her, he decided to fire her husband, who he assumed had advised or assisted her in filing her EEOC charge,” she said in the lawsuit.

Toney, in her three-count lawsuit claims she was wrongfully discharged, subjected to age discrimination and was the victim of retaliation. She is seeking back pay and unspecified compensatory damages. According to the lawsuit, the EEOC in August issued a finding that there was merit to Toney's claim and a separate determination that Orr was retaliated against by the school district.

Kerr declined to say if Orr would file his own lawsuit against the district.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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