Thursday, January 12, 2012

Former employee accuses Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for fostering a 'sexually hostile workplace'

Posted by on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM

The Catholic Diocese is facing another lawsuit.
  • The Catholic Diocese is facing another lawsuit.
In late November, a whistle-blower named Larry Probst accused the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph of fostering a "sexually hostile workplace." Two months later, Probst is the latest person to file a lawsuit against the diocese.

Probst worked at the diocese as a part-time archivist at the Chancery office. He started in 1999 or 2000 on an intermittent basis and then "on a more regular, permanent, part-time basis" in 2007. His lawsuit says the "unwanted and unwelcome sexual harassment from his supervisory priests" and from a co-worker started in spring 2010 and continued until June 30, 2011, when he was fired for what he claims was retaliation for complaining about the unwanted advances.

The lawsuit says the Rev. Charles Michael Coleman, who served as Archivist for the Chancery, hired his friend, a man named Michael St. George, to do data entry from the sacramental records into a computer program called "Parish-Soft." The lawsuit alleges that Coleman and the Rev. Robert Cameron "fawned over" St. George in front of Probst. The lawsuit says Coleman, Cameron and others would talk "about St. George in sexually suggestive ways ... in the presence of" Probst.

The lawsuit also alleges that St. George made unwanted sexual advances toward Probst, creating "a sexually hostile work environment."

Probst's lawsuit says the sexual harassment included:

a. Sexually offensive comments from St. George such as “I don’t date someone with a hatchet wound,” referring to a girlfriend of a co-worker.

b. Sexually offensive comments from St, George about removing pornography from his computer desktop before he could allow a Parish Soft technician access to his computer.

c. Sexually offensive advances and gestures from St. George such as arching up and grabbing his crotch while riding in a vehicle with Plaintiff at the request of Father Coleman.

d. Sexually offensive comments from Father Coleman, such as about games men play where the loser has to “service” the other men under the table.

e. Sexually offensive comments from Father Cameron such as that St. George could “cum in my hand.”

The lawsuit also alleges that St. George used a diocesan computer in the archives to read sexually explicit personal e-mails with messages such as "A Big Fat Cock" and a story about how a guy liked having sex in a bathroom.

Probst reported the e-mail to Coleman in summer/fall 2010. Coleman was allegedly concerned only that the e-mail be deleted so St. George's job would be spared. Probst also reported "the sexually offensive advances, comments and materials" to diocesan communications director Rebecca Summers in January or February 2011.

The lawsuit says Probst raised the issue with others in early 2011. Court records say he told Monsignor Blacet in February. In March, he told diocesan priest Phil Luebbert. He also told the diocese's chief financial officer, Dave Malanowski, in March that he was concerned about St. George's role. Malanowski allegedly told Probst that he did "not want to get into relational issues" between Coleman and St. George.

On March 18, 2011, Probst reported the "sexually hostile environment" created by St. George and the advances made by St. George to Bradley Offutt, the chancellor of the diocese, the lawsuit says. Probst told Offutt that he'd reported the behavior but it "was overlooked, tolerated and sanctioned by" Coleman. Offutt allegedly tried to dissuade Probst from coming forward and warned Probst that he could lose his job. Probst went ahead with his complaint, showing Offutt a screen capture of an offending e-mail left open on St. George's computer. The lawsuit says Offutt put the screen grab in an envelope, which he forwarded to the diocesan human resources director Rhonda Stucinski and management information services director Julie Creech.

Probst's lawsuit says he was "ostracized at work by co-worker and priests in the Chancery office" after making the complaints.

The lawsuit says the diocese's answer to St. George looking at sexually explicit e-mails on a computer was to give St. George a new login, giving him exclusive and protected access to the computer. The diocese also informed Probst in May 2011 that his job was being eliminated due to a lack of funding. Probst's last day was June 30, 2011. The next day, the diocese hired a woman to work part time in the archives.

Larry Probst Amended Complaint

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