Justice Department Secures Resolution in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania
SCRANTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, to resolve the department’s claims in Doe et al. v. Schuylkill County et al., a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).
The consent decree resolves the department’s allegations that County Commissioner George F. Halcovage, Jr., sexually harassed four female employees and that those employees suffered retaliation when they opposed Halcovage’s sexual harassment. The complaint also alleged multiple incidents of sexual advances, coercion of sexual intercourse, and inappropriate sex-based comments occurring over many years.
“All people deserve to go to work each day without fear of sexual harassment and retaliation when they oppose that harassment,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This resolution sends a clear message that the Justice Department will not tolerate sexual harassment and retaliation especially when it is perpetrated by an elected official who abuses the powers of their office.”
“Today, by this consent decree, we emphasize that local governments must have comprehensive policies and training to prevent sexual harassment and retaliation by public servants,” said U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam. “No official can abuse their power and position to a workforce they were elected to supervise, and this settlement provides steps the County must take to prevent and address this abusive behavior.”
Under the terms of the consent decree, if approved by the court, the County will, among other things, retain a consultant from a list of consultants approved by the Justice Department. The consultant will conduct a workplace climate survey, propose improvements to the County’s equal employment opportunity policies, and develop a new sexual harassment training program. The consent decree also includes restrictions on Commissioner Halcovage, who has refused to resign from his position and who can only be removed, under state law, through impeachment in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and conviction in the Pennsylvania Senate.
The four women harassed by Halcovage, who have additional claims under state and federal law against Schuylkill County and several individual Defendants, will continue to pursue their claims.
This lawsuit is part of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative. The Initiative is aimed at eradicating sexual harassment in state and local government workplaces. It focuses on litigation, outreach, and development of effective remedial measures to address and prevent future sex discrimination and harassment.
Trial Attorneys Allan Townsend and Amber Trzinski Fox of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Butler of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania prosecuted this case.
The 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 on its websites www.justice.gov/crt and www.justice.gov/crt/employment-litigation-section.
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Updated January 13, 2023