Counselor at Philly halfway house says termination violated civil rights

By Jim Boyle | Nov 19, 2014

A former counselor at the Coleman Hall treatment center in Philadelphia says a manager

ridiculed and harassed her based on her Jamaican origins, leading to her wrongful termination, according to a suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Julie Josephs, of Philadelphia, seeks damages in excess of $100,000 from her former employer, Community Education Centers, Inc., which operates Coleman Hall as a treatment and residential center for recovering substance abusers. She claims that the actions by her manager discriminated against her national origin and became retaliatory after Josephs complained to upper management.

According to the complaint, Josephs joined the facility in 2009 as a senior counselor, working with inmates when they were released from prison to make appointments with the department of welfare, drug and alcohol counselors, psychologists, probation officers, family courts and other programs.

In December 2009, Josephs' direct manager had been terminated and replaced by Andrea Harris, the complaint says. The plaintiff claims that Harris began to target her for disciplinary actions, directing her co-workers to file grievances against Josephs. The suit says that no other employees experienced similar actions.

After Josephs' filed a complaint in May 2010, the director of operations told the other employees not to follow through on Harris' order, the suit says.

A few weeks later, Harris allegedly began to ridicule and belittle Josephs for a grammar mistake, when she used the word "had" instead of "has." The suit also details several instances of discriminatory words and actions Harris used against Josephs, such as associating the plaintiff with Bob Marley because of her Jamaican descent and criticizing foreigners for "coming to the United States with accelerated degrees and trying to take American jobs."

In one instance, the complaint says, Josephs interviewed for a director position. Harris allegedly reacted to Josephs' intent to move up by saying, "no way the black b**** is going to be her boss." Josephs' accuses Harris of instructing security officers to pull passes for Josephs' clients off the computer, and action that resulted in the plaintiff receiving disciplinary warnings for not having paperwork prepared.

The behavior was reported to a deputy director, but no action or investigation took place, the suit says.

In October 2010, the complaint says, Harris informed Josephs that she would be written up because one of her clients absconded after being set up for an appointment with welfare by the plaintiff. Josephs claims she never received documentation of the disciplinary action, an action that no other employee had received for a similar situation.

The director for the Coleman Hall told Josephs in December 2010 that she would be suspended with intent to dismiss based on the write-ups. Josephs was escorted from the building and never received copies of the write-ups.

Josephs is represented by attorneys from Saffren & Weinberg in Jenkintown, Pa.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-06565-PD.

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