As part of its recent investigation, the Division on Civil Rights interviewed a number of current and former church members and officials, including several deacons.
One former deacon - the same man who pronounced the matter of Harris' alleged sexual involvement with female parishioners closed at the 2005 meeting - acknowledged that he and his wife left the church in 2006 after 41 years of membership because of Harris' alleged conduct.
In addition, two female former parishioners other than Davis told investigators they also were victimized by Harris. One victim was a parishioner who reported seeking ministerial counseling from Harris. The woman told investigators that when she met with him to discuss her problems, Harris propositioned her for sex. When she rebuffed him, the woman said, Harris threatened to make her life difficult if she told anyone of his overture. Eventually, she recounted, Harris summoned her to a meeting attended by two church deacons where he insisted she'd taken what he said out of context. The woman said she fled the meeting in tears and subsequently quit the church.
According to the complaint, Galilee Baptist lacked any written policy prohibiting sexual harassment or any other form of bias-based discrimination in the workplace during Davis' employment. The church also lacked written procedures for employees to report sexual harassment or other types of discrimination. The church also had no written protocol for management to follow in dealing with harassment complaints, and church managers did not make a practice of documenting reports of sexual harassment or bias-based discrimination.
Investigation of the Davis matter was conducted by Civil Rights Investigator Artherine Price and supervised by Lorraine LeSter, manager of the division's Trenton office. Division on Civil Rights Staff Attorney Estelle Bronstein provided assistance in preparing the Finding of Probable Cause.
The Law Against Discrimination provides that each respondent found to have committed a violation is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000, provided the individual has not been convicted of a previous violation within the past five years. The law also provides for other remedies, including compensatory damages and injunctive relief, such as changes in the employer's policies and management/staff training.
Now that the division has issued a complaint, the case will be referred for a process known as conciliation. If conciliation is not successful, the matter will be referred to a state Administrative Law judge for a hearing on the merits, which is a non-jury trial. The Administrative Law judge will then issue a written decision.
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM