PA House Democratic Caucus agreed to pay $514,300 to settle claims by employees

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Since 2007, the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus agreed to pay out a total of $514,300 to settle claims by employees, according to a statement issued by Rep. Frank Dermody, the House Democratic Leader, Tuesday night.

Two involved sexual harassment claims against two different members while five claims were for other types of employment matters, Rep. Dermody added in the statement.

The statement comes after Philly.com published a report about a $248,000 payment being issued to settle a 2015 sexual harassment complaint against state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone.

Gov. Tom Wolf spoke out about that report — calling for the Berks County Democrat to resign.

“Verbal and physical harassment is flat-out wrong, whether towards an employee or any other person,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “Rep. Caltagirone should resign.”

“I fully support the legislative effort by the bipartisan group of women in the House and Senate for reform in this area and hope every member of the General Assembly will join me.”

You can read Rep. Dermody’s full statement below: 

“We do our best to provide all Caucus employees with a safe workplace, free from discrimination and harassment. We have a written anti-discrimination, anti-harassment policy with an articulated complaint procedure for employees. We take all complaints seriously, act on them quickly and investigate them, going to great lengths to try to ascertain the facts.

“When we agree with an employee to settle a complaint, we do so with the advice of counsel and mindful of the effect the underlying complaint may have had on the employee making the complaint and what his or her best interests are. In addition, because complaints by employees are very often filed against the Caucus or the House as the employer, we also take into account whether settling a complaint will reduce the risk that protracted litigation may be a financial drain on the Commonwealth.

“Since 2007, the Caucus agreed to pay out a total of $514,300 to settle claims by employees. Two of them involved sexual harassment claims against two different members. Five of them involved other types of employment matters.

“I cannot discuss the specifics of a settlement where the parties agreed to keep the terms confidential. They may only be disclosed pursuant to a Court Order or the Right to Know Law, with redactions if and when appropriate. I don’t like it and I wish I could disclose more of the specifics, but I have to follow the law. The House Right to Know Officer is in the process of reviewing more than 30 different Right to Know Law requests for a variety of different documents. The caucus’ responsive documents will be released to those requesters in due course. It is also important to note that some of these matters involve former employees who are now private citizens and we need to be mindful of their privacy rights as well.

“I think it’s imperative that members are reminded often of their obligations to employees, constituents and others they come in contact with every day regarding their behavior. That’s why I, along with the other leaders of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced HR 612 requiring a third hour of ethics training each session for members specifically addressing sexual harassment issues. In addition, I am a co-sponsor of Representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky’s proposed legislation that will require mandatory sexual harassment training for all members and employees as well as better protect employees who believe they have been subjected to sexual misconduct by a member or another employee.”