April 21, 2014

Elyria
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Oberlin College food service workers claim sex harassment by chef

OBERLIN — A chef at Oberlin College was permitted by the administration to sexually harass four female employees at the school, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the women.

Holliday

“Oberlin College allows a sex-based hostile work environment and the workplace was and is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult that was and is sufficiently severe to alter the conditions of the plaintiffs’ employment,” attorney Steven Moody wrote in the suit filed Tuesday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court. “The college has failed to follow its own policies.”

The suit accuses Dean Holliday, an executive chef with Bon Appetite, an on-campus food service company, of lewd comments and behavior beginning in 2010. Holliday is accused of pressing his penis against the buttocks of one woman and bragging about the size of his penis and sexual prowess.

The suit said Oberlin officials were notified of the allegations in June 2011 but did nothing for several months. Moody wrote that college President Marvin Krislov “spearheaded” the investigation but then alleged the harassment continued along with “retaliation and intimidation.”

Krislov couldn’t be reached Tuesday. In a Nov. 21 post on Oberlin’s website, Krislov announced formation of a Sexual Offense Policy Task Force to review Oberlin’s reporting policies and response procedures, “given the growing attention on our campus and elsewhere to colleges’ response to allegations of sexual misconduct and violence.”

Krislov wrote that a public forum on the subject facilitated by the Oberlin College Dialogue Center will be this month, but the time and location haven’t been decided. Oberlin’s Office of Equity Concerns said on the website that Oberlin “deplores” discrimination and harassment, and anyone guilty of it is subject to discipline, including expulsions, suspensions or firings.

The suit didn’t make clear whether Holliday still works for Bon Appetite, although it said that he bragged in June that he had used the investigation to secure his position.

Holliday couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.