WILLIAMSPORT — A Penn State employee again is trying to get damages from the university for what she claims is retaliation for making complaints about sexual harassment.
Deborah Rearick last week filed suit in U.S. Middle District Court raising issues she had in a case dismissed earlier this year. The staff assistant said since that dismissal, she received right-to-sue letters from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on two complaints she filed with that agency.
As in her earlier suit, Rearick contends the university did not respond to her complaints of sexual harassment but retaliated because she made them.
Rearick claims she had complained to her superiors on numerous occasions about sexual harassment in return for which she was denied employment opportunities, received almost endless threats and was demeaned in front of colleagues.
A Penn State spokeswoman said the university is aware of the latest lawsuit.
“This is the third time that Ms. Rearick has filed suit against the (u)niversity in federal court,” spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in an email. “Her prior two complaints were dismissed as without merit, and the (u)niversity intends to fully defend against this latest filing.”
In an attempt to link her situation with the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal, she states in her complaint she “was forced to negotiate with Wendell Courtney, a PSU attorney who as early as 1998 knew of Sandusky’s abuses even as the rest of the school was covering up nearly every other sexual harassment complaint.”
Rearick alleges Penn State discharged the law firm of McQuaide Blasko and Courtney because of their involvement in covering up misconduct.
The circumstance surrounding Rearick’s complaints and her previous legal experiences are in need of investigation, the court document states. It notes in her earlier court case she was denied discovery and the opportunity to amend her complaint.
Rearick is seeking unspecified damages.
The 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this year affirmed the dismissal of a similar suit against the university, its former president Graham Spanier and nine administrators.
The decision affirmed the 2012 ruling of U.S. Senior Judge A. Richard Caputo that Rearick’s suit had no relation to the allegations against Sandusky, who has been convicted and is serving a state prison term of 30 to 60 years.
In that case, Rearick contended the retaliation was part of a “pervasive culture of cover-up and intimidation” by top officials at Penn State.
Rearick’s lawyer is former auditor general Don Bailey, whose law license has been suspended five years by the state Supreme Court. The suspension order takes effect 30 days after its Oct. 2 issuance.