Thursday, February 1, 2018

Pa. paid at least $3.2M to settle sex harassment claims

Liz Navratil & Angela Couloumbis report for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

HARRISBURG — State officials have paid at least $3.2 million in taxpayer funds in the last eight years to resolve more than two dozen sexual harassment complaints against government and public employees, according to an analysis by the Inquirer and Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Much of the money went to pay settlements and legal fees for complaints filed in courts around the state involving legislators and workers in the executive branch, row offices, the courts, and universities in the State System of Higher Education. The allegations ranged from inappropriate jokes to exposure to pornography and sexual assault. In some cases, employees claimed they were retaliated against for reporting the behavior.

That amount reflects the most complete picture to date of state taxpayer-funded payouts, which are often made quietly and which have become a source of controversy in the Capitol as the #MeToo movement has ensnared a growing number of public figures.

The newspapers compiled the data using court records and documents obtained under the state’s Right-to-Know Act. A number of similar requests are still being processed by some independent state agencies, which could drive up the total cost.

In all, the analysis shows, at least 37 cases involving sexual harassment claims have been resolved since 2010 — some did not include a financial settlement. Six cases are pending, and the status of one case could not be determined.

Most of the money paid — at least $2.8 million — went toward settling cases involving employees of departments that report to the governor or the State System of Higher Education. The data cover cases resolved in the last eight years, under Govs. Ed Rendell and Tom Corbett as well as Gov. Wolf. The acts that spurred some cases, however. date back to before 2010.

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