Justice Department Set to Intervene in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Schuylkill County, PA | Takeover bid
The Department of Justice is today seeking to join the lawsuit Doe et al. vs. Schuylkill County et al., filed in the United States District Court for the Intermediate District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs in this case are four Schuylkill County employees who allege that County Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr. sexually harassed them and that they suffered retaliation when they objected to Halcovage’s sexual harassment. . The allegations in the US Intervention Complaint, detailed below, include multiple incidents of sexual advances and sexual coercion, as well as inappropriate comments of a sexual nature that occurred over many years.
“When an elected official abuses their power and position to sexually harass public officials in the workplace, they can and should be held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the department’s Civil Rights Division. of Justice. “This lawsuit sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not condone sexual harassment and will uphold the rights of survivors.”
“No one should be forced into sexual harassment and then have that injury compounded by retaliation for complaining about that harassment in the workplace,” U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus said for Central Pennsylvania. . “Our office will work diligently with the Civil Rights Division to uphold the right to be free from unlawful harassment and retaliation in the workplace.”
The United States intervening complaint alleges that Schuylkill County violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it subjected the four women to Halcovage’s sexual harassment and retaliated against them because they objected to his sexual harassment. Halcovage used his power as county commissioner to compel one of the women, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, to have sex with him repeatedly. Halcovage sexually harassed the other three women through, among other things, rude sexual comments, lewd jokes, and spreading a false rumor that he had had sex with one of them. Senior Schuylkill County officials knew about Halcovage’s sexual harassment, but took no action to stop him until one of the women filed a written complaint. After the county investigated the written complaint, it determined that Halcovage violated the county’s sexual harassment policy. Despite this finding, the county has taken no disciplinary action against him and he continues to serve as Schuylkill County Commissioner. The county retaliated against the four women over their opposition to Halcovage’s sexual harassment, including moving two of them to less desirable offices and demoting the other two. Despite a clear conflict of interest and his obvious motive for retaliation against them, Halcovage voted decisively to demote both women.
The U.S. complaint to intervene is based on charges of discrimination filed with the Philadelphia District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigated the charges and found reasonable grounds to believe that Schuylkill County had violated Title VII. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the charges to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The Justice Department’s proposed intervention in this lawsuit is part of a joint effort to strengthen the Department’s and the EEOC’s collaboration in vigorously enforcing Title VII.
This lawsuit is also part of the Civil Rights Division’s Workplace Sexual Harassment Initiative. The initiative aims to eradicate sexual harassment in national and local government workplaces. It focuses on litigation, awareness and the development of effective remedial measures to address and prevent future sexual discrimination and harassment.
This lawsuit is being handled by trial attorneys Allan Townsend and Amber Trzinski Fox of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Butler for the Central District of Pennsylvania. Full and fair enforcement of Title VII is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division and the Employment Litigation Section is available at their websites www.justice.gov/crt and www.justice.gov/crt/employment-litigation-section.