Mortuary School Sued for Sexual Harassment, Discrimination Against Pregnant Students

March 13, 2011
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imageSyracuse, NY — A Syracuse mortuary school and its owner are accused of sexually harassing female students and discriminating against pregnant students in a lawsuit announced today by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

The lawsuit, filed in Onondaga County Supreme Court, seeks damages for women harmed by the school’s conduct, while ending “long-standing harassment and discrimination,” the attorney general said.

An instructor at The Simmons Institute of Funeral Service and its president, Maurice Wightman, are accused of harassment that included persistent touching, hugging, groping, sexual propositions, sexual jokes and sexual comments directed at female students over several years. They are also accused of excluding all pregnant women from certain aspects of the program, without sufficient justification or consulting the employee, the lawsuit states.

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These practices are unlawful under Title IX, which makes it illegal for an institution receiving federal funds to engage in sex discrimination in education.

The Simmons Institute is a for-profit school located at 1828 South Ave., Syracuse. It is 111 years old, and remains one of the few such programs to train funeral home directors in the state.

“The law guarantees everyone the right to pursue an education and career free of discrimination and harassment,” Schneiderman said in a news release.

Wightman could not immediately be reached for comment.

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