HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) – Pennsylvania has revealed it paid $900,000 in 2016 to settle a workplace sexual misconduct case, its biggest payout of that type to come to light in recent months.
The money was paid to a woman who accused her boss of molesting, harassing and threatening her while she worked for the Department of Revenue from 2011 to 2013.
The settlement was disclosed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s office in response to questions by The Associated Press about sexual harassment settlements by the executive branch. Wolf’s office is expected to disclose additional settlements discovered in an ongoing review of cases.
Amid a national reckoning over sexual harassment on the job, more than $1.5 million in payouts by Pennsylvania during the last eight years have become public in recent weeks. They include a $250,000 jury award last month in a state trooper’s lawsuit.
The victim told the AP she felt she should have received a bigger settlement because of her long ordeal. She had been a 20-year employee of the state when she quit her position assisting her boss and the enforcement agents in the office.
She originally sought $5 million in a 2014 federal lawsuit accusing Albert Forlizzi, a regional administrator, of molesting her repeatedly, exposing himself at work, demanding sex and threatening retaliation if she reported his behavior.
“On occasions, at the workplace, Mr. Forlizzi placed his hands inside of Plaintiff’s pants and underwear,” her lawsuit said.
At other times, he would force the victim to enter his office, pull up her shirt and move her bra so that he could molest her, the lawsuit said. He had a “sick, perverted desire to sexually assault and harass her,” it said.
The victim, who is black, also accused Forlizzi, who is white, of making disparaging remarks about her race and about women.
Forlizzi pleaded no contest to charges of indecent assault and official oppression in 2015. He was sentenced to four years of probation and required to register as a sex offender.
The AP does not typically identify victims of sexual crimes, and the woman, interviewed Monday, said she did not wish to be identified for the report on the settlement with the state.
A person who answered the phone at Forlizzi’s workplace said he could not get a message to him, and a message left at his home seeking his comment was not returned Monday.
The Wolf administration called Forlizzi’s conduct, which occurred before Wolf became governor, “abhorrent, appalling and criminal.”
“The victim deserves commendation for her courage in coming forward and making sure this individual was held accountable for his repulsive conduct,” the Democratic administration said.
The state workforce under Wolf’s jurisdiction numbers about 73,000. Agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction fielded 339 reports of sexual harassment over a recent five-year period, according to state data released last week.
Records released to date show all three branches of Pennsylvania state government have settled sexual misconduct allegations in recent years, including claims for unwelcome touching, kissing and lascivious comments.
In the past two weeks, Wolf has called on two Democratic lawmakers to resign following disclosures about their behavior, including one, Rep. Tom Caltagirone, whose former aide’s claim of sexual harassment was settled with a $250,000 payment. Caltagirone has said he is innocent.
Gov. Wolf tells the KDKA Morning News the payout came from state insurance.
“The commonwealth does self-insure, so that’s where the settlement funds came from, its own funds,” said Gov. Wolf.
Gov. Wolf says he is trying to make sure Pennsylvania is a “safe and harassment-free workplace”, but understands it only takes one person’s misbehavior to change that.
“If someone misbehaves, despite everybody’s best efforts then you will have this in the commonwealth, as well as in any organization,” said Gov. Wolf.
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