Fired physics professor’s appeal of 2014 case struck down: court rules he retaliated against alleged harassment victims

A federal appeals court appeal refused to the revive a lawsuit by former tenured Lafayette physics professor Andrew Kortyna, who was fired in March 2015 for harassing two female students who accused him of sexual harassment. The opinion on the appeal was filed on March 30, according to the document.

The Lafayette reported that Kortyna, who had been tenured for 14 years, left the college on Mar. 31, 2015, under “unclear circumstances,” after being accused of sexual harassment by two students in 2013. Kortyna also filed a lawsuit against the college and former provost Wendy Hill for “intentional emotional distress.”

The summer after Kortyna left in August 2014, he filed a 14-count Civil Rights complaint, alleging that the college fired him due to gender discrimination.

“Kortyna claims that Hill relied on ‘the students’ gender-stereotyped perception of’ him,” Judge Stephan Bibas wrote in the opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit opinion. This Civil Rights complaint alleged that the stress of the hearing led Kortyna to have a mental breakdown.

President Alison Byerly, who originally terminated his employment with support from the Board of Trustees, declined to comment on the court ruling made last week by the federal appeals court.

Bibas wrote in the court’s opinion that Kortyna’s dismissal is fair and “any college would have done the same.”

Bibas noted that the sexual harassment allegations themselves were investigated by a college committee who failed to find evidence Kortyna had actually sexually harassed the students.

After being told about these sexual harassment complaints, Hill warned Kortyna not to discuss the case with the women. However, Bibas wrote in the opinion, that Kortyna “sought out [one of the students], apologized, telling her he was ‘probably going to get fired'” while crying.

In conclusion, Bibas wrote “The record supports the college’s decision to fire Kortyna because he had retaliated against his students after they complained that he had sexually harassed them.”

Associate Professor Andrew Kortyna. [Photo courtesy of lafayette.edu]

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