The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that Schuylkill County Courthouse officials did nothing to stop a pattern of sexual harassment, created a hostile working environment for women working there, and retaliated against women who spoke out against it.
In a determination letter from EEOC Deputy District Chair Dana Hutter, the EEOC says further that Schuylkill County government has done nothing to prevent this behavior from happening in the future.
Hutter writes: “I have determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that (Schuylkill County government) subjected (the complainant) and a class of females, to sexual harassment and created hostile work environment based on their sex and retaliation, and failed to institute proper policies and procedures to ensure that the harassment and retaliation ceased.”
The EEOC has given 10 days for the County to fix this situation or as they put it, “voluntarily remedy the unlawful employment practices found to have occurred.”
Courthouse Officials Violating Civil Rights Act in Halcovage Case
Hutter says Schuylkill County offiicials “knew or should have known of Commissioner Chairman George Halcovage’s harassing and unprofessional conduct prior to Charging Party’s formal complaint, but failed to take reasonable or timely action to prevent Halcovage from engaging in further harassment.”
Further, Hutter says “Based on the evidence reviewed it can be inferred that Halcovage subjected a class of females to sexual harassment and created a hostile work environment since at least 2018, and that even after his conduct had been formally reported and corroborated, (the County) failed to take reasonable or timely action to prevent Halcovage from having further contact with the victims, or from engaging in continuing harassment and intimidation tactics.”
The EEOC says the activity happening at Schuylkill County Courthouse is illegal, per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the County must remedy it. Any plan the County submits for how it will remedy this matter must be approved by the EEOC.
“If Respondent fails to engage in conciliation, or if the Commission determines, in its sole discretion, that conciliation has failed, the Deputy Director will inform the parties and advise them of the court-enforcement alternatives available to aggrieved persons and the Commission,” Hutter writes.
The EEOC determination handed down Friday figures to factor heavily in the federal sexual harassment lawsuit hanging over the County, specifically over Halcovage, County Solicitor Glenn Roth, and Administrator Gary Bender. They’re each named as Defendants in the case.
Those 3 actually tried to have that lawsuit dismissed because the 4 women accusing them of sexual harassment, intimidation and retaliation didn’t exhaust all administrative ways to settle their issues, including filing an EEOC complaint.
Now they have an EEOC determination in hand that probably isn’t what they wanted to see on a Friday and they’re still facing that lawsuit. Settlement talks in the lawsuit recently broke apart and the matter is inching toward a trial probably late in 2022.
Halcovage is accused of sexually harassing 4 women at the Courthouse over the course of nearly a decade, even though the EEOC determination only covers back to 2018. They accuse Roth and Bender of complicity in that behavior and failing to prevent it.
Further, the women allege they’ve been subject to retaliation on the job since an internal investigation was launched in 2020 over Halcovage’s alleged behavior. That investigation also determined Halcovage likely violated several workplace policies and efforts were reportedly made to contain the Commissioner to his office at the Courthouse.
There is speculation that retaliation against the 4 women who filed the lawsuit is ongoing.
Earlier this year, the County determined that the way its tax offices were operating wasn’t working so they ordered a complete revamp of the operation. It just so happens that at least 2 of the women who filed the federal lawsuit work there. And their jobs, specifically, were affected by the shake-up.
Just recently, two of the 4 Jane Doe plaintiffs were suspended indefinitely from their jobs over a computer access issue.
Halcovage, for the record, has denied all the allegations against him. And the County has denied any accusations of retaliation, attempting to justify its personnel moves, no matter how oddly specific or targeted they seem.