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Education Department Bigwig Accused of Horndog Comments

By James Fanelli | September 27, 2012 3:54pm | Updated on September 27, 2012 5:23pm
John T. Shea, a top Education Department executive, is accused of talking about which females were "doable."
John T. Shea, a top Education Department executive, is accused of talking about which females were "doable."
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NEW YORK CITY — A horndog honcho for the city Education Department promoted a frat house atmosphere in the workplace by openly talking about which female employees were "doable" and making raunchy jokes, a new lawsuit charges.

James T. Shea, the CEO of the DOE's School Facilities Division, is accused of routinely commenting on women's bodies and blurting out the names of the women he wanted to bed.

Sheila Dancy-Wilkins, a director in the division from 2006 to 2011, made the bombshell allegations in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court, in which she claims "sexism has long been widespread" in the office.

"Senior management has not only tolerated but encouraged a culture of sexism and sex stereotyping," the lawsuit says.

Along with the accusations of locker room talk, Dancy-Wilkins alleges Shea's division had few high-level female employees. In 2011, out of the division's 14 directors, only three were women, according to the lawsuit. Ten of the 11 men allegedly earned far higher salaries than the women.

"From 2006 to 2011, male directors were paid substantially more than Dancy-Wilkins for equal work on jobs that required equal skill, effort and responsibility, and were performed under similar working conditions," the lawsuit says.

Dancy-Wilkins is suing the Department of Education, claiming the salary gap was intentional, and the sexist attitudes among senior management shows that.

The lawsuit says Shea and his executive director, John O'Connell, regularly referred to female employees as "girls" despite the director of labor relations, Heidi Husser, telling them to stop.

Dancy-Wilkins recounts that in one instance in 2011, Shea described a DOE lawyer as "hot" and "he would do her," and said the same about another city attorney.

He allegedly unleashed another uncouth comment when Husser asked what was appropriate office attire for women.

"No muffin tops and no camel toes," he answered, making a raunchy reference to the female anatomy, according to the lawsuit.

Dancy-Wilkins also claims in the lawsuit that senior management "encourages joking in the office that is sexual in nature and have (jokingly) referred to women as 'ho's' and 'bitches.'"

The difference in paychecks was the bigger insult to bear, the lawsuit claims.

As director of staff development, Dancy-Wilkins received an award for projects she implemented and never received a negative performance evaluation. Yet in her last year in the position, she earned $12,682 to $41,432 less per year than every male director, the lawsuit claims. At least one male deputy director took home $23,773 more than her, the lawsuit says.

Dancy-Wilkins notes that she held a law degree while none of her male counterparts had a post-graduate degree — and some didn't even finish college.

Meanwhile, the DOE provided agency cars to the male directors, but Dancy-Wilkins didn't get wheels.

In an affidavit Husser backed Dancy-Wilkins' the sexism accusation. She says she too holds a law degree but is the lowest-paid director.

Dancy-Wilkins says in September 2011 the DOE demoted her and slashed her salary by nearly $16,000 because her director position had purportedly been eliminated due to budget cuts.

She later learned that in her new role, she was again getting paid less to do the same job as men who held the same position.

The lawsuit says this September Dancy-Wilkins learned that her demotion wasn't budget-related but "motivated by gender discrimination."

She was hired in August 2008. HIs salary is $182,588.

The Department of Education declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

The city Law Department said it had not been handed the complaint.