5 employees sue bank president for harassment

October 15, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

CUMBERLAND -- Five female employees are suing a Cumberland bank president, alleging that he sexually harassed them -- including repeated incidents of forcible kissing, sexual overtures and other offensive behavior -- over the past two decades.

The women filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore last week against Richard C. Deckerhoff, the chairman, chief executive officer and president of First Financial Corp., a holding company of First Federal Savings Bank of Western Maryland.

Each woman is seeking damages on four counts of assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Each is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages on each count, according to the suit.

"There are so many prefabrications, embellishments and exaggerations in their claims that I would not know where to start in defending myself," Mr. Deckerhoff said in a prepared statement read by a secretary. "And until I know where to start, I will have no further comment."

Mr. Deckerhoff, who lives in Bedford, Pa., also served as president of First Federal until May, when he resigned amid the allegations. He began with First Federal in 1959.

The women filed complaints in March with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against First Federal, alleging that Mr. Deckerhoff had created a "sexually hostile and intimidating work environment." The EEOC is investigating the charges.

"A most common offensive act of Deckerhoff was to take advantage of female employees while they were alone, overpower them by placing his hands on their face and pulling them toward him," the suit states.

Mr. Deckerhoff also asked the women "explicit sexual details" of their relationships and activities with their boyfriends or husbands, the women state in the suit.

The suit was filed by H. Louise Smyth and Kelly A. Dersin, both of Ridgeley, W. Va.; Linda K. Whetzel and Patti W. Mackie, both of Cumberland; and Rhonda D. Hensel, of Corriganville, Md.

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