Lawsuits against state reveal litany of abuse
Claims range from sexual harassment to rape, stalking
HARRISBURG — Sexual misconduct lawsuits filed against Pennsylvania state government over the past decade document a litany of lurid and abusive behavior.
An Associated Press review of more than 30 lawsuits included in a list provided by the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf found claims ranging from rape and other kinds of assault to sexual harassment and stalking.
The documents and other records show the state paid or agreed to pay more than $3 million to settle claims.
Included in the complaints were allegations raised by state police dispatchers, state prison guards, a mental health worker, a university groundskeeper and university students.
Some of the victims say the conduct of their supervisors or co-workers caused them severe physical and emotional problems.
Examples of allegations found in the lawsuits, where they occurred, and their outcome:
– A female guard said a married supervisor made repeated advances, pressuring her to join him on a “romantic getaway to Hawaii” and offering to help her get another job if she had sex with him. She said another supervisor falsely told several others that he had paid her $150 to have sex in a hotel room. Her case was settled for $32,750.
– A state prison guard, who is black, said two sergeants repeatedly tried to grab his genitals and used racial epithets in his presence. He was paid more than $7,200 on the eve of trial.
– A dispatcher said a trooper maneuvered her into a barracks men’s room where he exposed his genitals and offered her a half-price discount on a sweatshirt if she watched him masturbate and showed him her breasts. She said after she complained, co-workers referred to her as a “dirty lying whore.” The trooper, Eric Zona, shot and killed himself while awaiting trial on charges of indecent exposure and open lewdness. The dispatcher’s case settled earlier this month for $150,000.
– Another dispatcher claimed her supervisor raped her and that officials tried to cover it up. In November, her lawyer told a federal judge that mediation efforts were premature.
– A university police officer alleged that in 2011, a sergeant repeatedly texted her, asking her to have sex in the police station. At one point, the sergeant came into the women’s locker room and tried to kiss the victim on the mouth, she said. That case settled for $25,000.
– A man who worked as a painter at another state university claimed, among other things, that a female co-worker would stick out her tongue and expose herself to him. The state paid out more than $27,000 to settle.
– A lawsuit by a female groundskeeper at the same university alleged she was subjected to pornographic images in the shop and break room, graphic sexual conversations and “crude and disgusting remarks, leering, staring and obscene gestures.” One co-worker, she said, regularly hugged and kissed her on the lips against her will. She received a $176,000 settlement.
– A student at a state university was paid $495,000 over claims a mass communications professor repeatedly pressured him to date, among other allegations. The lawsuit said the professor had a “long history of sexual harassment and retaliation against students and faculty.”
– The state paid $70,000 to a graduate student who said her academic adviser described her repeatedly as sexy and hot and predicted they would become lovers. He also groped and kissed her, the lawsuit said, and threatened to undermine her academic career if she did not have sex with him.
– A mental health worker at a state hospital said in a 2016 lawsuit that a psychiatrist she worked closely with talked about his sex life, adultery and women’s breasts. He allegedly told her that he hoped her “vagina shrivels up and dies” so she could not take additional maternity leave and that he put her “on a pedestal and it’s not just to look up your skirt.” That case was settled a year ago, and records indicate she was paid at least several thousand dollars.
– A lawsuit settled in 2012 against the State Workers’ Insurance Fund said a woman’s supervisor asked her to sit on his lap and “go for rides,” and requested that she lick Twizzlers candy before he ate it. It settled for nearly $77,000.
– The Department of Transportation settled a female maintenance worker’s claim that she suffered retaliation after reporting that a supervisor had touched her “in a sexual manner,” sought sex and once mooned her. She was paid more than $64,000.