Valley Forge Military Academy faces wrongful termination complaint

By Jon Campisi | May 31, 2013

A Bucks County woman claims in a newly filed civil complaint that she was fired from her job at the prestigious Valley Forge Military Academy because she spoke out about alleged gender discrimination she was experiencing by her supervisors.

Attorney Jeremy M. Cerutti, of the Bensalem, Pa. firm Karpf, Karpf & Cerutti, filed suit on May 29 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on behalf of Trevose, Pa. resident Therese Dougherty, who had worked for the defendant for about three-and-half-years, mostly as the senior director of activities and camp at the male-dominated boarding school.

The lawsuit says that Shawn Phillips, who had been assigned as the new acting superintendent of the institution in the summer of 2010, often subjected the plaintiff to discriminatory treatment because she was a female.

Other management treated Dougherty in disparaging ways as well, the suit claims.

In particular, Dougherty alleges that during the period in which Phillips was her supervisor, she was treated in a “general condescending and demeaning manner, excluded from important meetings, and excluded from interviewing individuals for positions that she would eventually oversee,” the complaint reads.

The suit goes on to state that after Dougherty complained about the discriminatory treatment on the part of the defendant, a human resources representative responded by saying, “What do you want me to do? He is the President’s guy.”

Despite this initial response, the plaintiff continued to complain to H.R., the suit says, yet the department continually refused to attempt to resolve or investigate the complaints.

In late May 2011, the suit states, before Dougherty agreed to be transferred to a new position, one that she alleges was never described to her in detail, the plaintiff was informed that her position as senior director of activities and camp had been filled by a male identified in the complaint as Jose Sanchez, and that Sanchez was being given free housing on campus, a benefit never offered to Dougherty.

The plaintiff was eventually given a description of her new position, that of senior director of special initiatives and community outreach, in June 2011, the suit states, and was additionally informed that she would be shadowed by Sanchez for a few weeks so he could become acclimated to the job.

During this time, however, Sanchez would often only work five to six hours per day, and when Dougherty complained about this, in light of the fact that she put in nine to 12 daily hours, the plaintiff was told that Sanchez was given permission to work the limited hours.

The complaint goes on to state that Dougherty was ultimately terminated after she made those complaints, and her final complaint of gender discrimination.

Dougherty accuses the defendant of violating the Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction barring the military academy from continuing to engage in its alleged illegal activity.

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-02967-GP. 

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