The Inquirer, along with other newspapers, took advantage of the Right-to-Know Act and upon exercising their rights, found that nearly $3.2 million has been paid out to settle claims of sexual harassment. The claims that were filed in courts involved legislators, workers in the executive branch, row officers, the courts, and universities in the State System of Higher Education. Unfortunately, it was also revealed that the money used to pay these claims didn’t exactly come from the perpetrators who were accused of sexual assault, or made inappropriate jokes, or even exposed employees to pornography. Rather, the money was taken from taxpayer funds.
The Inquirer pointed out that in most of the cases, “settlements were funded through the Employee Liability Self-Insurance program, which pays for claims where the state is liable, often covering things like damage to private vehicles.” The analysis that revealed these numbers showed that at least 37 cases involving sexual harassment have been resolved since 2010. However, some of the cases did not include a financial settlement while six others are still pending. That means once these remaining six cases settle, assuming no others are filed, the amount of taxpayer money used will likely increase.
The Largest Settlement Paid was $900,000
Among all the settlements that were issued, the highest paid one was in the amount of $900,000. This went to a longtime employee at the Department of Revenue who claimed a mid-level supervisor, Albert Forlizzi II, sexually assaulted her, harassed her, subjected her to racial slurs while including references to slavery. Criminal charges were filed against Forlizzi, but he pleaded no contest and is serving a probationary sentence.
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Another large payment went to a woman who worked for the Pennsylvania State Police. The female received a $435,000 settlement for being “subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment and a sexually hostile work environment.” The woman claimed she was constantly asked by troopers about her sex life, was touched inappropriately, and was referred to in sexually derogatory terms.
Although these victims deserved these settlements after having been subjected to working in such harsh conditions, the issue of using taxpayer money to settle the cases is what has many concerned. Many of these “secret taxpayer-funded payouts” remain hidden from the public which is why legislators have introduced bills that would ban these payouts and prohibit confidentiality clauses. One state representative, Leanne Krueger, “is pushing a package of bills that would, among other changes, deny anonymity and taxpayer bailouts for elected officials who are found, after an investigation, to have mistreated others.”
As the #MeToo movement has created a demand for sexual harassment claims to be recognized and handled accordingly, these new bills would also help reduce all these hidden claims that lawmakers and other political figures are never recognized for. It is important that victims of sexual misconnect not only receive the justice they deserve but that the person who subjected them to these conditions be recognized. If you need help filing a complaint or recognizing an employer for engaging in sexual harassment, USAttorneys can connect you with a sexual misconduct lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA now.