Fired Pittsburgh Milk Shake manager claims gender bias in hiring

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During her brief tenure as general manager of The Milk Shake Factory on South Side, Denise Beloncis was given authority to hire subordinates -- as long as they were "the all American girl," according to a lawsuit she filed today in U.S. District Court.

Ms. Beloncis, 43, of Crafton Heights, signed on in August 2012 to run the store, which is a branch of Trafford-based Edward Marc Chocolatier, according to the complaint in U.S. District Court.

Her supervisor "told [Beloncis] she could not hire men," according to the complaint by attorney Samuel Cordes. "Rather, Belonics was instructed to hire 'the all American girl.' The all American girl was to be blonde, blue-eyed and college educated preferably a Duquesne University student."

Mr. Cordes said he did not know why Duquesne students were preferred.

Ms. Beloncis complained that the policy was illegal and hired an African American woman, according to the complaint and Mr. Cordes. Ms. Beloncis was fired in November 2012, according to the complaint.

"You can't retaliate against someone for opposing discrimination," said Mr. Cordes. "That's an independent violation of the civil rights law."

The company issued a statement indicating that although it "takes such claims and allegations very seriously, we are confident, knowing the values of our family owned business, that this matter will be successfully resolved. We remain committed to diversity within our business and within the communities within which we operate, which makes the allegations in this lawsuit even more surprising."

The complaint claims that Ms. Beloncis suffered anguish and loss of income and demands compensation.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published January 21, 2014 12:06 PM

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