Penn State

Penn State retiree files federal retaliation suit over sexual harassment

A former Penn State employee is accusing the university of retaliation after she reported sexual harassment.

Joane Stoneberg now lives in Maryland, but from 1984 to 2014, she worked for the university. She started as a part-time transcript clerk and finished as a programs coordinator in the College of Arts and Architecture.

She retired nine months early after she says she reported “sexually inappropriate and offensive comments, pictures and propositions” from a co-worker over the course of eight years.

“...Penn State failed to take action to provide her with a safe workplace free of discrimination. Instead, the university betrayed Ms. Stoneberg and violated the law by forcing her to move from the office suite she shared with the perpetrator and to leave the job she loved,” wrote her attorney, Andrew Shubin, in the complaint.

Shubin detailed reports allegedly made to different levels of administration, including a vice provost, that resulted in a decision to move the co-worker or Stoneberg. Stoneberg said she did not want to be the one who moved.

But Shubin said in court documents that was what happened, with a new position created for her in June 2014 that “represented a significant diminution of her job description, stripping her of the high-level responsibilities she had mastered.”

Shubin said the new position was an entry-level advising position.

The complaint, filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, asks for compensation, including full wages for the nine months difference between her retirement in October 2014 and her planned retirement in July 2015; lost benefits, including retirement contributions; and compensatory damages and fees.

“We do not comment on ongoing litigation,” said Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce