ST. PETERSBURG — A former employee of Catholic Charities is suing the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg alleging that he was sexually harassed by the current executive director.
Abdelaziz Abdelmunim claims in the suit filed Jan. 14 that Catholic Charities' interim executive director, Margaret Rogers, made unwanted sexual advances.
According to the suit, the incidents began about two months after he was hired in July 2015 and that "unwanted offensive touching escalated to unwanted touching of private parts." Abdelmunim claimed that Rogers, his direct supervisor, "described vivid descriptions and details of her sexual life" and sent him photos and texts "of a sexual nature."
Catholic Charities president Frank Murphy said the allegations are unfounded.
"We are not going to respond in any way to the information until our board of Catholic Charities trustees and our legal counsel have a chance to review it," Murphy said Friday.
"We obviously have support for the allegations that are contained in the complaint," said Abdelmunim's attorney, Donna V. Smith. "In fact, he was terminated after suffering harassment for an extended period of time."
Smith, of Wenzel Fenton Cabassa law firm in Tampa, said her client was a program manager helping refugees at the time he was fired.
In his suit, Abdelmunim, who is originally from Sudan, said he told Rogers her advancements were unwelcome, but did not immediately report them to Catholic Charities' human resources office for fear of losing his job. He was fired on Dec. 7, 2017.
He is requesting a jury trial, compensation for lost wages and benefits and reinstatement to a job comparable to the one he lost. He is also seeking other damages, including for emotional distress.
Murphy last fall announced the departure of then Catholic Charities executive director Mark Dufva. Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times that Dufva's departure had come after a recent review. He said then that the agency would conduct a search for a replacement and did not have anyone in mind for the position.
The agency's website describes Rogers as both its interim executive director and director of family housing and special projects.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.