AIDS agency sued for sexual harassment

AIDS Care Group, a major HIV/AIDS services agency in the region, has been slapped with a federal sexual-harassment lawsuit.

Dr. Emmanuella Cherisme, a physician specializing in obstetrics/gynecology, filed suit against the agency last month.

According to her lawsuit, Cherisme worked at AIDS Care Group from April 2013 to December 2013, during which she allegedly experienced sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of her race, national origin and gender.

A male coworker allegedly threatened to withhold Cherisme’s paycheck unless she acquiesced to his sexual advances. A female coworker allegedly made racially offensive comments. For example, when a medical instrument flipped onto Cherisme’s white lab coat and she asked to have it laundered in an agency washing machine, the coworker denied the request on the basis that Cherisme and her clients were “black,” according to the lawsuit.

In another incident, after Cherisme returned from a medical mission in Haiti, the same coworker commented that she “got darker” and that she was uglier for spending time in Haiti and getting “darker,” according to the lawsuit.

The coworker also told Cherisme she wouldn’t obey work-related orders from her because she’s “black,” according to the lawsuit.

Cherisme also contends that coworkers attempted to sabotage an important work project she initiated. Despite the alleged sabotage attempts, Cherisme managed to complete the project in December 2013, but was terminated shortly after its completion.

“Despite being promised three months of compensation and insurance as severance, [Cherisme] did not receive said compensation and her insurance was canceled,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit emphasizes that Cherisme acted in a professional manner throughout her employment.

“From the time [Cherisme] became employed by [AIDS Care Group] until the last day of employment, [Cherisme] performed well and in accordance with the expected standards of her profession.” 

Cherisme is seeking in excess of $150,000 in damages, along with legal fees and costs. 

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Nitza I. Quinones Alejandro.  A jury trial has been requested. 

Neither side had a comment for this story. 

AIDS Care Group, based in Delaware County, was formed in 1998, and serves as a comprehensive health-services agency for people with HIV/AIDS. It also receives federal HIV/AIDS-prevention funds.

AIDS Care Group has offices in Chester, Sharon Hill and Reading. 

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, the Keystone Press and the Pennsylvania Press Club.