Center for Victims sued for discrimination
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LitigationClaims to be a victim of LGBTQ+ discrimination

Center for Victims sued for discrimination

District 12 candidate is mentioned in the lawsuit, but is not a defendant

Laurie MacDonald (Photo by Maureen Kelly Busis)
Laurie MacDonald (Photo by Maureen Kelly Busis)

The Center for Victims — the nonprofit that District 12 congressional candidate Laurie MacDonald serves as president and CEO — was sued by a former employee.

In a federal complaint filed on Dec. 21, 2023, Brandi Gurcak alleges the Center for Victims “discriminated against her on the basis of protected characteristics (gender and sexual orientation); and retaliated against her for opposing sex discrimination.”

Gurcak was hired by the Center for Victims in 2016 to work as a trauma therapist, the complaint states. From 2018 to 2019, she served as a clinical coordinator for the center, in addition to her work as a therapist.

The complaint asserts that the nonprofit’s leadership was aware that Gurcak was a lesbian and that its director of human resources, Diane Vrable, called her a derogatory term in the presence of a subordinate. Gurcak, the complaint states, complained to both her direct supervisor, Cindy Snyder, and center Vice President Tracey Provident, asking to schedule a meeting about the incident, which never occurred.

When Gurcak eventually spoke to Provident, the complaint alleges, she said that she felt discriminated against. No one in the center’s administration responded to any of Gurcak’s requests to further discuss the situation, Gurack claims and, as a result, she alleges that she experienced emotional pain, humiliation and embarrassment.

Following the alleged discrimination and Gurcak’s attempts to discuss the matter, the complaint states that she was passed over for a promotion, despite being qualified for the role. Gurcak says that Snyder told her she didn’t receive the new role because she was “too vocal” in her complaints about Vrabel and her homophobic slur.

Snyder, Gurcak alleges, told her she would “never” be promoted to a supervisory position.

According to the court document, MacDonald participated in the decision to not promote Gurcak, making her feel severe mental anguish and emotional pain.

Gurcak resigned from the center on Oct. 30, 2019. Before leaving, the therapist said she learned of another instance of LGBTQ discrimination there.

MacDonald, the lawsuit alleges, tore down signs indicating restrooms could be used by people in accordance with their gender identity. Gurcak stated that she heard MacDonald screaming at the therapist who posted the signs before that person was fired the next day.

MacDonald told the Chronicle in an emailed statement that, for nearly 50 years, the Center for Victims has provided shelter and services to thousands of people who find themselves, through no fault of their own, victims of crime.

“While we always adhere to EEOC compliance, we take our commitment to diversity one step further intentionally in hiring people of all races, ethnicity, faith, gender and LGBQT+ in order to ensure our staff is inclusive, diverse and culturally appropriate to provide services to all victims during their time of trauma,” MacDonald said.

The Center, MacDonald added, employs nearly 100 people and, like any large corporation, employees make claims against it.

“The Center for Victims asserts this claim is without merit and intends to vigorously defend our organization against these accusations,” she said.

Gurcak’s attorneys did not respond to the Chronicle’s interview requests. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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