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Retired custodian sues Norwin, alleges harassment, threats by principal

Doreen Harris Stewartsville Elementary School principal (Taken from Norwin SD website)
By Richard Gazarik
Sunday, May 4, 2014, 11:03 p.m.
 

A retired custodian has filed an age discrimination lawsuit in Westmoreland County against the Norwin School District and two employees, claiming an elementary school principal bragged that she was a competitive body builder and physically threatened him, according to court documents.

The suit filed last week by William Breeger Sr., 72, names the school district, Stewartsville Elementary School Principal Doreen Harris and Thomas Wrobeleski, the human resources director.

Harris, 46, of Penn Hills, won the 2005 national championship for the Organization of Competitive Body Builders. She formerly worked in the Penn Hills School District.

The suit was filed by attorney Lawrence Kerr of Greensburg after a finding from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February that found “strong evidence” that Breeger was harassed and falsely accused of work deficiencies because of his age and his previous complaints of discrimination against Harris.

Harris declined comment and referred questions to school district spokesman Jonathan Szish, who did not respond to a request for comment. Superintendent William Kerr was unavailable for comment, a secretary said.

Breeger was head custodian at the school, where he worked for 16 years until he retired in 2012. He claims in the lawsuit that Harris began harassing him in 2006 and physically threatened him during one confrontation.

“I know I am known as a bitch in the Norwin School District, and that's OK with me because I have a school to run,” she told Breeger, according to the lawsuit.

After Harris sent Breeger a disciplinary letter threatening him with further discipline and possible firing, he asked her why she was treating him differently from other employees, the filing states.

“Yes, I do treat you different,” she said, according to the suit.

Breeger said when he tried to talk, Harris told him to be quiet.

“Don't talk to me now. Let me have my monologue. I'm a physical person. I lift weights. I can move a table and lift chairs. ... Do I trust you? No. Not as far as I can throw you, and I can throw you over that table if I wanted. A couple of feet. Now, I don't want you running to your union and telling them I threatened you,” Breeger claims he was told in the lawsuit.

The EEOC finding that gave Breeger permission to sue Norwin noted that Harris was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan because of the way she treated others. The commission found her to be “unjust, belligerent, disrespectful and abusive to many people.”

The EEOC said the district sided with Harris on the issue.

Wrobeleski failed to properly investigate Breeger's complaints despite statements from corroborating witnesses that supported his accounts, according to the finding.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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