The Charles County Board of Education has reached a settlement in a $1 million lawsuit by a former office assistant who claimed the board transferred, demoted and left her no choice but to quit after she complained of being groped and sexually harassed by her boss.
Attorneys for both sides declined to disclose the amount of the settlement but said that, when finalized, it will resolve Stephanie Rosa’s claims that the board violated federal and state civil rights laws in handling her complaints against her former supervisor, Patrick A. Tague.
“A settlement has been reached and put on the record but all of its terms have not been finalized,” Rosa’s attorney, Timothy F. Maloney of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. in Greenbelt, wrote in an email.
Edmund J. O’Meally, the board’s attorney, said Monday that “the litigation has been resolved.” O’Meally is with Pessin Katz Law P.A. in Columbia.
Judge Paul W. Grimm, in a settlement order issued last Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, said either Rosa or the board could move to reopen the case within 30 days if the settlement is not consummated.
Katie O’Malley-Simpson, a board spokeswoman, referred all questions to attorney O’Meally.
According to her lawsuit, Rosa was an assistant for the school system’s Food Service Department in La Plata when Tague called her into his office on June 8, 2010, and asked her to remove papers from a printer behind his desk. As she was passing by, Tague lifted Rosa’s dress above her waist and said, “Nice,” the complaint stated.
Tague called Rosa into the office again two days later, made comments about her figure and groped her, the complaint added.
These episodes had followed previous incidents, dating to December 2007, involving comments and uninvited touching, Rosa alleged.
Rosa said she complained to the board’s human resources department and, when no action was taken, filed a request for a peace order against Tague with the Maryland District Court in Charles County.
The peace order, issued on July 7, 2010, barred Tague from being in the same office with Rosa. In response, the board transferred Rosa on July 26, 2010, from headquarters to T.C. Martin Elementary School in Bryantown, according to the complaint.
Rosa’s transfer enabled Tague to return to work and resulted in a 50 percent reduction in Rosa’s work hours and in assignments to menial tasks, according to the complaint.
At headquarters, Rosa had helped manage the department, but at the elementary school her duties included sharpening pencils and cutting construction paper, the lawsuit stated.
Rosa called the transfer a demotion and said she felt compelled to quit, which she did on Aug. 10, 2011 — but not before filing suit on June 8, 2011, in Charles County Circuit Court.
In her complaint, Rosa alleged the board was liable for Tague’s behavior, its inaction in the face of her complaints and its retaliatory transfer of her to the elementary school. After she resigned, Rosa amended the complaint to include a claim of constructive termination.
The board denied the allegations, as did Tague, in court filings.
On Feb. 23, 2011, Tague pleaded guilty to misdemeanor second-degree assault and was sentenced to six months in jail, all suspended, and a one-year probation. The prosecution chose not to prosecute Tague, who no longer works for the school system, on a charge of fourth-degree sexual offense, according to court records on the Maryland Judiciary’s Case Search website.
In October 2011, the board successfully requested to have the lawsuit removed to U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, citing Rosa’s claim of sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act.
The Daily Record has filed a request for the amount of the payment by the board of education, a state agency, under the Maryland Public Information Act.
STEPHANIE ROSA V. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CHARLES COUNTY
U.S. District Court, Greenbelt
Paul W. Grimm
Event: December 2007-Aug. 10, 2011.
Suit filed: June 8, 2011 in Charles County Circuit Court.
Suit Removed: Oct. 6, 2011 to U.S. District Court, Greenbelt.
Settlement Order: Dec. 11, 2013.
Timothy F. Maloney, Jay P. Holland and Puja Gupta of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. in Greenbelt.
Edmund J. O’Meally, Rochelle S. Eisenberg and David A. Burkhouse of Pessin Katz Law P.A. in Columbia.
Sexual harassment and retaliation.