A woman who claims she had to drop out of a program at a job-training center because of pervasive sexual harassment on the part of an employee has filed a discrimination complaint against the institute in federal court.
Philadelphia resident Shakeith Beatrice Washington claims in her civil action, which was filed April 18 at the federal court in Philadelphia by attorneys with the Bucks County law firm of Kolman Ely, that the Upper Darby, Pa. based Prism Career Institute condoned a policy of discrimination when it did nothing to stop one of its employees from engaging in an ongoing pattern of harassment toward Washington.
The complaint alleges that beginning in October 2011, Washington started being harassed by one of the center’s employees, identified in the suit as Victor Holland.
Holland, whose desk is on the fourth floor of the institute, and faces an elevator on which Washington would ride regularly, would immediately begin harassing Washington when she stepped foot off of the elevator, the lawsuit alleges.
Holland eventually obtained Washington’s personal contact information, including her cell phone number, by accessing Washington’s personnel records on file at the institute, the lawsuit claims.
From there, Holland allegedly unleashed a campaign of harassment, sending Washington suggestive text messages, harassing her in person and even calling her cell phone on occasion, the complaint states.
Washington didn’t answer Holland’s calls or written messages, but she couldn’t avoid seeing him in person, since Holland’s desk was located directly outside of the elevator on which Washington would ride to get to class.
In mid November 2011, the lawsuit states, Washington, upon arriving at the institute, encountered Holland, who gazed at her in a “threatening manner.”
“Holland was so threatening that Plaintiff felt that he would attack her or do her harm,” the complaint states.
Despite not wanting to return to the school because of her concerns over Holland’s potential actions, Washington had to go to the institute on Nov. 23, 2011 to hand in an instructional assignment, the lawsuit states.
“At that time, Plaintiff has received numerous voicemails, texts, messages from Defendant Holland, referencing her appearance and indicating Defendant Holland’s wishes to have an intimate relationship with her,” the lawsuit states.
Washington first complained to the school’s director about Holland’s actions, but she did not immediately get a response from the woman, the suit claims.
Washington then complained to her paralegal studies instructor, who assured Washington that she would again reach out to the institute’s director about the alleged harassment.
But Washington never heard back from the director, and at the end of November she finally decided to file a complaint with the Upper Darby Police Department.
The lawsuit claims that to date, despite the fact that Washington has yet to return to the institute to continue her legal studies because of the harassment, she has yet to hear back from anyone at the school regarding her complaints.
The suit claims that the lack of response constitutes a “deliberate indifference” on the part of the defendants, which, in addition to the school, includes Holland, the employee who perpetuated the alleged harassment, and the school’s director, Amy Barrios.
The lawsuit contains counts of hostile environment, sexual harassment, discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Washington seeks to have the defendants prohibited from continuing a pattern of sexual harassment.
She also seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, actual damages, attorney’s fees and other litigation costs, and additional injunctive relief.
Washington demands a jury trial.
The federal case number is 2:12-cv-02035-HB.