Former employee alleges discrimination in lawsuit

A former Allegheny College employee has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the institution, alleging that her firing in October 2021 was discriminatory and retaliatory.
The Boston office of HKM Employment Attorneys filed suit Sept. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on behalf of former Director of Student Involvement Amanda Mangine. According to the suit, Mangine joined the college in August 2014 and served in a variety of positions until her termination last year.
The suit alleges that Mangine, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, was illegally disciplined and terminated after taking a leave of absence in the summer and early fall of 2021 to address her mental health. According to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Campus, Mangine has requested a jury trial and is seeking more than $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages including back pay, lost wages, medical expenses and attorney’s fees.
According to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Campus, the suit claims that Mangine had “embodied the characteristics of an admirable employee of Allegheny” and her work performance had never been previously criticized, but that after informing the college’s Human Resources department of her disability in May 2021, her supervisor — then-Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students April Thompson — became “overly critical” of Mangine’s job performance. Thompson left the college in February 2022.
The suit also alleges that the college “failed to take any affirmative actions to prevent Ms. Mangine’s supervisor from provoking her.” According to the suit, this, as well as an alleged failure on the part of the college to accommodate Mangine’s mental health concerns, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The suit claims that Mangine sought and obtained permission from the college to take a leave of absence in July 2021, and was assured by HR that that the college “cannot base any performance on the leave being needed.”
However, the suit alleges that when Mangine returned from her leave in early October 2021, she was told by HR to meet with her supervisor before returning to work. When Mangine tried to contact HR and her supervisor about this, the suit alleges she received no response and that she eventually reached out to then-President Hilary Link due to her frustration.
Eleven days after submitting the necessary paperwork to return from her leave, the suit says Mangine was fired, with the college citing “ongoing job performance concerns.”
In August 2021, prior to being fired, Mangine filed a joint charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — the federal agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace — and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission. After a year of investigation, the suit says that the EEOC provided Mangine a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” letter. According to the EEOC, such a letter — also known as a “right-to-sue” — is sent “if EEOC is unable to conclude that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred,” and permits the charging employee to file their own independent lawsuit.
In an email statement, Vice President for Enrollment Management Ellen Johnson confirmed that Mangine had filed the EEOC charge but declined to comment further, writing that the college does not comment on personnel matters or the details of legal proceedings.
“Ms. Mangine did file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the College,” Johnson wrote in part. “The EEOC summarily dismissed the charge and chose not to pursue it further. Ms. Mangine subsequently filed a lawsuit which is currently working its way through the legal process.”
Mangine’s EEOC charge was one of three such complaints filed against the college between January 2021 and March 2022. In January 2021, Matthew Bocchi, ’13, filed his first complaint with the agency related to allegations that his supervisors in the Office of Institutional Advancement were pressuring him to return to the office while he had an ADA accommodation to work from home. In March 2022, former Associate Professor of Chinese Xiaoling Shi filed a complaint in regards to the circumstances of her termination at the end of the last academic year.
However, Mangine’s complaint is the first charge to see the inside of the courtroom. Though Bocchi’s complaint was refiled in April 2021 and he obtained a “right-to-sue” that August, he ultimately elected not to file a lawsuit. Shi’s charge is currently working through the EEOC’s process.
HKM Employment Attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.