Beth Shalom seeks to dismiss claims in discrimination suit

Beth Shalom seeks to dismiss claims in discrimination suit

Beth Shalom is seeking dismissal of certain claims in the discrimination suit.
Beth Shalom is seeking dismissal of certain claims in the discrimination suit.

Congregation Beth Shalom has responded to a former executive director’s charges of employment discrimination by asking a federal court judge to strike or dismiss purportedly “immaterial, impertinent or scandalous” allegations contained in the complaint.

Sandee Bloom of Monroeville, who worked at Beth Shalom in various capacities from June 2000 through October 2010, charges that Beth Shalom paid her less than her male predecessors for the months that she served as the congregation’s executive director.

Bloom claims that Beth Shalom maintained a sexually hostile work environment dating back to 2003, alleging that improper, explicitly sexual comments were made to her, and further alleging sexual misconduct by several individuals associated with Beth Shalom leadership; she has not, however, named any of those individuals as defendants in her lawsuit, and has not sued the congregation for sexual harassment.

In a brief filed last week, Beth Shalom argues that because Bloom does not claim decisions regarding her compensation were made by any of the individuals she accuses of sexual misconduct, those allegations are irrelevant and should be stricken or dismissed from the complaint.

Beth Shalom also argues that Bloom’s allegations of sexual misconduct should be stricken or dismissed on procedural grounds.

In addition to the charges of sexual misconduct, Beth Shalom moved to strike or dismiss additional allegations that, the congregation argues, “have no relation to the claims [and] vindictively and recklessly impugn the moral character of Beth Shalom and non-parties. … These allegations are alleged only to create an unwarranted and unnecessary scandal and in a very pathetic attempt to smear Beth Shalom’s officers and congregation.”

The case was transferred from Allegheny County courts to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania last week. Beth Shalom moved the case to federal court on the ground that its claims arise under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.

The case is assigned to federal Judge Maurice Cohill.

While Beth Shalom’s lawyers declined to comment on why they moved the case to federal court, historically it has been difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in job discrimination cases in federal forums. From 1979 through 2006, federal plaintiffs won just 15 percent of employment discrimination cases, compared to a 51 percent victory rate for plaintiffs in all other civil cases, according to a study published by the Harvard Law & Policy Review in 2009.

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at