Former school employee alleges sexual harassment, retaliation

Kasey Schefflin-Emrich Jun. 25, 2015, 1:40pm


READING - An education professional is suing her former employer alleging a violation of civil rights.

Vanessa Royce filed a lawsuit June 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, alleging wrongful termination in late 2013.

According to the complaint, Royce was hired by PA Cyber in February 2010 first as a substitute teacher and then as a full-time instructional supervisor in the school's Philadelphia office. During that time Royce claims she was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment as the male principal would pay extra attention to her; speak to her inappropriate ways; contact her outside of normal work hours; send inappropriate text messages; and often comment on her clothing and appearance.

The suit states that at one point the principal informed Royce in advance of a Team Captain position that would be opening up and gave her most of the questions that would be asked in the interview.

He told her that if she told anyone what he did he would simply deny it and she would loss the position, she claims. Royce contends that she became increasingly stressed and felt if she didn't tolerate the principal's sexual harassment she would be overlooked for promotions or even be fired.

While Royce made numerous complaints of sexual harassment, the suit says PA Cyber failed to take remedial action to address her concerns and her complaints even led to retaliation. This included Royce being removed from a program that she was instrumental in developing; the principal's wife (also an instructional supervisor) ripping down things that she put on the community bulletin board; the principal's wife treating her with hostility in front of others; and Royce being criticized for her work.

Royce alleges the hostile environment and retaliation caused her work performance to suffer and she ended up seeking medical help for panic attacks. After a stint working from home and then being transferred to PA Cyber's Allentown office in a job with less responsibilities, despite her request for more, the defendant eventually fired Royce at the end of September 2013, she claims.

The plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages; back wages and benefits; front pay and benefits; attorney fees and costs of suit; and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. She is being represented by Jana R. Barnett of the Law Offices of Jana R. Barnett in Wyomissing.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case number: 5:15-cv-03216-EGS.

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