Manheim Township municipal building

Manheim Township municipal building.

Claiming she faced discrimination because of her gender, a former Manheim Township finance director has filed a lawsuit against the municipality in federal court.

In the suit, Dawn Stratchko of Willow Street says she was harassed and belittled after pointing out that she was paid less than her male peers.

Accusations were made specifically against township Manager Sean Molchany and former Commissioner Al Kling, with Stratchko claiming they used gender-specific vulgarities to criticize her in front of other employees.

They are accusations that Kling outright denies.

“I’m willing to tell you it’s not true,” he said in a Friday phone interview. “These days, everybody wants to make up a story to try to get something out of you.”

The lawsuit was filed June 12 by Stratchko’s Philadelphia-based attorney, Bryan Lentz, of the Bochetto & Lentz law firm. Neither Lentz nor Stratchko could be reached for comment Friday.

‘A campaign of harassment'

In the suit, Lentz and Stratchko lay out a narrative beginning with Stratchko’s 2007 hire date, when she began work as the township’s finance director — later also being appointed to serve as treasurer.

As part of her duties, Stratchko oversaw the township’s payroll, and in 2017, she noticed differences in the salaries of male and female employees, the suit claims, noting that men earned more.

“As an example, (Stratchko) learned that the male director of public works at the township was making more money than her despite the fact that he had seven years less experience in a director level position,” the suit reads.

According to the filing, Stratchko mentioned her concerns in 2018 to Molchany, asking for a pay raise, as well as a review of the salaries of female department heads — requests that she claims Molchany “laughed at.”

She then broached the issue with the township’s human resources department only to learn that Molchany had already moved to reduce her work duties, specifically excluding her from the payroll process, according to the suit.

It’s a process that all but repeated itself when Stratchko again approached human resources in 2019 after learning that she was being offered a retirement package much lower than those offered to male employees holding similar positions, according to the suit.

After she spoke up, Stratchko claims Molchany “began a campaign of harassment” against her and other female employees, insulting them with words like stupid, worthless and useless.

Former commissioner denies claims

In the suit, Stratchko made other accusations, also claiming that Molchany and Kling used more severe language, including vulgarities.

Molchany, who was away on vacation, could not be reached for comment Friday. And township Solicitor J. Dwight Yoder said he could not comment, and he advises township officials not to comment on ongoing litigation.

But Kling was willing to offer his denial, calling Stratchko’s claims falsehoods and adding that he said the same during a recent deposition.

“That’s my stand,” said Kling, whose eight-year stint as township commissioner ended in January after he failed to win re-election in 2019.

In the lawsuit, Stratchko says she was mistreated, and that mistreatment eventually led to health problems spurred on by emotional distress — distress that ultimately led to her resignation on May 10, 2019.

Now, Stratchko is suing the township, asking that she be awarded the “compensation and benefits she would have received had she not been the victim of gender discrimination,” as well as punitive damages and court costs.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Manheim Township is facing another federal lawsuit, filed by a group of patrons alleging discrimination based on the complexion of their skin. The patrons, who the suit shows are seeking more than $150,000 in damages, say they were thrown out of a township pool for wearing skimpy bathing suits earlier this month.

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