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East Penn chief, two officials are sued

Published October 12. 2009 05:00PM

A former employee of East Penn Township has filed a civil suit in federal court alleging sexual harassment by the chief of police, sex-based discrimination, retaliatory practices, "as well as other improper conduct by defendants."

The defendants are the East Penn Township Police Department, East Penn Township Chief of Police Rodger Gehring, supervisor Randy Pfeiffer, and former supervisor Guy Barry.

The lawsuit was filed by Maria Burrows of Albrightsville, with the alleged incidents happening in 2007. She worked as an employee of the police department from May to November in 2007.

Burrows said she complained to Pfeiffer and Barry, who were supervisors at the time, and they "consistently refused to take any action to prevent further harassment since they knew similar conduct took place in the past, any (sic) no one stopped the harassment."

She also claims, "As a result of my complaints about sexual harassment and reporting of abuse, plaintiff was forced to resign on Nov. 15, 2007."

She alleges that Gehring:

• Would question her about her sexual positions.

• Would inform her about his sexual positions.

• Would talk to her about his wife's breast implants.

• Would isolate her in a patrol car or other area away from other police officers and touch her while talking about sexual positions.

• Had a meeting with the supervisors regarding her complaints of sexual harassment against him.

• Told her to resign or "she would be fired and he would circulate false rumors about her that she was soliciting sex while on duty."

A jury trial is being demanded by Burrows.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, Scranton, on Oct. 7.

Burrow alleges that because of "the defendants' willful and unlawful actions in treating (her) in a discriminatory manner solely because of their sex," she has sustained severe emotional stress, loss of earnings, plus the failure of the aforementioned benefits, plus loss of future earning power, plus back pay, front pay and interest due thereon."

She accuses the township police department, Gehring, and the two supervisors of failure to implement an effective, well-known and uniformly enforced policy against sex discrimination, failure to impose any discipline upon their employees who had engaged in sex discrimination, and failure to take actions to prevent illegal discrimination, including but not limited to sex discrimination.

The suit was filed on her behalf by the law office of Hahalis & Kounoupis, Bethlehem.

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