PA Catholic Diocese Settles Sexual Harassment Claims
DuBois, PA – Earlier this month the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania settled a federal sexual harassment lawsuit involving an elderly parish priest who allegedly sexually harassed a venerable employee of the Diocese. The woman, Plaintiff Kathleen A. Clement, filed her lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese and two of its parishes in DuBois back in May 2016.
The priest, Defendant Rev. Daniel Kresinski, who is in his 70s, served at St. Michael the Archangel Church and St. Joseph Church, both in DuBois, Pennsylvania. Clement, who is in her 60s, was employed by the Diocese as a facilitator of religious programs for three parishes. In her complaint, Clement claims that she was sexually harassed by Kresinski and that he repeatedly touched himself in her presence. She also claimed in the suit that his superiors within the Diocese did not stop his behavior despite her numerous complaints. Such inaction created additional liability for the Diocese and parishes involved.
According to the lawsuit, Kresinski’s actions created an “offensive, sexually hostile work environment” from March 2013 until Clement eventually resigned in October 2013. Her complaint states that she was “forced to resign from her employment due to Defendants’ failure to address or remedy the offensive sexually hostile work environment in which [she] was forced to work.”
The two parishes, St. Michael the Archangel and St. Joseph, claim that Clement only created the allegations in “retaliation against Fr. Kresinski’s demand for greater accountability for Plaintiff’s job performance and as a result of a salary dispute,” and that, she later “resigned from her position on her own accord.”
While the details of the settlement cannot be discussed by the parties, Diocese’s Bishop Lawrence T. Persico accepted the recommendation of the Clergy Review Board that the priest in question cease from public ministry “until further notice for the good order of the church.” Before that time, he had been on paid administrative leave after the federal suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Erie in May 2016.
The church likely felt the pressure to settle after U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter ruled against the diocese and the parishes motions to dismiss. Defendants claimed that Clement did not qualify as an employee subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
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