Judge rejects gender bias in Keystone real estate suit

A federal judge has dismissed gender discrimination claims against Keystone Real Estate Group by two terminated female employees involved in a same-sex relationship but gave them the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann on Tuesday also found there were no violations of the State College antidiscrimination ordinance as alleged by Deborah Stewart, of Pine Grove Mills, and Amanda Thomas, of State College, in separate lawsuits.

Other claims including sexual harassment remain in their suits that allege because of their sexual orientation they were subjected to a sustained pattern of discriminatory verbal attacks, vulgar sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and fired.

Brann found facts indicating sexual orientation discrimination were rife through the complaints but wrote although disturbing, they do not support a claim of gender discrimination. He gave Stewart and Thomas the opportunity to amend their claims to cure factual deficiencies.

In dismissing the allegation the State College ordinance was violated, Brann said the two have not established they exhausted their administrative remedies as the law requires.

Thomas raised a claim under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act but the judge dismissed that because she failed to file a complaint with that agency within the required 180-day window of her Oct. 8, 2012, termination.

Her motion to disqualify the lawyer representing Keystone as well as several employees due to a potential conflict of interest also was denied.

Brann granted a defense motion to strike from the complaints impertinent and scandalous matter including references to criminal drug activity and graphic sexual depictions.

The only available explanations for the inclusion of such irrelevant material are counsels’ defamatory, incendiary motives or plain incompetence and neither will be tolerated, the judge wrote.

Keystone has several real estate and leasing offices in the State College area.