Attorney Catherine Smith of the Derek Smith Law Group Has Significant Win with the EEOC in Sexual Harassment Case Against Schuylkill County
Philadelphia, PA – Attorney Catherine Smith of the Derek Smith Law Group represents Schuylkill County Courthouse employees in their case alleging sexual assault, sexual harassment, sex and gender discrimination, and retaliation against County Commissioner George Halcovage, City Solicitor Glenn Roth, and County Administrator Gary Bender. On September 30, 2021, the EEOC issued a Letter of Determination in which they found evidence to support the claims included within the charge filed by Attorney Smith. The EEOC received over 67,000 charges relating to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment in 2020. However, they only issued a Letter of Determination for reasonable cause in 2,009 cases (2.8% of the charges received).
This EEOC finding is a huge win in this case against Schuylkill County and for the women alleging such egregious actions from an elected official within the County. With this finding, Attorney Smith and the Derek Smith Law Group can move forward with their case, knowing that the evidence is in their favor.
The details of the case are as follows:
Mr. Halcovage was elected to the position of County Commission in Schuylkill County in 2012. According to the EEOC charge, Mr. Halcovage immediately began sexually harassing and discriminating against female employees within the courthouse.
Two of the plaintiffs were employed at the County Courthouse. In 2014 and 2015, the other plaintiffs were hired. In 2018, the County promoted the two original employees to supervisors of the two newer employees and others in the assessment and tax claims office.
The four women allege that between 2014 and 2020, Mr. Halcovage committed acts of quid pro quo sexual assault and sexual harassment. He often allegedly threatened the welfare of the women if one of the women, Jane Doe, did not comply with his requests for sexual acts. However, beyond the sexual assaults and harassment, the four women allege to have been subjected to various acts of egregious retaliation at the hands of Mr. Halcovage.
The complaint alleges that County Officials, including Mr. Bender and Mr. Roth, knew about these incidents, participated in them, and did nothing to stop them. Furthermore, these women were subjected to egregious acts of retaliation by these same country officials, even after filing complaints against Mr. Halcovage. These supervisors’ actions allowed Mr. Halcovage to continue subjecting women to harassment and discrimination within the workplace.
In 2020, the Schuylkill County Courthouse put all employees on furlough due to concerns relating to COVID-19. As a result, the women allegedly finally felt safe complaining to their supervisors about the purported sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault they endured for the past six years. The supervisors brought the complaint to the HR team.
Human resources allegedly conducted a full investigation and found evidence that Mr. Halcovage committed the acts listed in the complaint. However, the County alleges that because Mr. Halcovage is an elected official, he can only be removed from his position if impeached or criminally charged. As a result of the investigation, the US Department of Justice is involved in the case and allegedly working closely with the EEOC in this matter.
In the meantime, the Schuylkill County courthouse’s employees returned to the office. The former HR director, as well as a temporary third-party HR consultant, had granted the plaintiffs a reasonable accommodation to work from home. Around early 2021, the County hired another HR Director. After that, the County rescinded the reasonable accommodation and relocated two of the four women’s offices.
Since being forced back into the workplace, Mr. Roth and Mr. Bender have allegedly demoted the women, cut their salaries, and even placed them on indefinite unpaid suspension.
Due to the Letter of Determination, the case will move towards the next phases of EEOC conciliation and potential trial.
Attorney Smith will defend the rights of her clients until justice is done. “My clients will not stand by and permit such actions. As such, they brought, and will continue to bring, the unlawful conduct within Schuylkill County to light. These brave survivors, as do all individuals regardless of their political affiliation or gender, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. What they have had to suffer is simply unacceptable. My clients and I are confident that the truth will be exposed, and we look forward to presenting their claims in court.”