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State, federal commissions take up Grandview discrimination claims

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Two government agencies are now investigating claims of racial discrimination allegedly committed in April against five women at Grandview Golf Club in York County.

The agencies are the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Two complaints have been filed by some of the women themselves, one with the EEOC and one with the state human relations commission. The state commission also launched its own probe.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act authorizes the state commission to investigate claims of racial discrimination both in response to complaints and on its own.

The complaints are filed by individuals who believe they have been subject to unlawful discrimination. Commission staff investigate the complaint, and the person or entity accused of discrimination must file a written response and submit other information needed to complete the investigation.

Commissioners also can act on their own accord and authorize an investigatory hearing after information of discrimination enters the public domain through news reports and social media, said the commission’s executive director, Chad Lassiter.

“(The latter) hearing is not started by an individual complaint; it is initiated by commission staff when a problem of community racial tension or racial discrimination arises,” he said.

The human relations commission was scheduled to begin its investigatory hearing on June 21 at York City Council Chambers.

The five women – who are being referred to as the Grandview 5 – are Sandra Thompson, 50, Myneca Ojo, 56; Karen Crosby, 58; and sisters Sandra Harrison, 59, and Carolyn Dow, 56. They were asked to leave Grandview Golf Club on April 21, after the club’s management reportedly called the police on the women. The women had been told by management that they were playing golf too slowly.

Thompson, an attorney and president of the York chapter of the NAACP, said that she and fellow golfers were keeping pace on the course, and that the incident, they believe, reflected a case of racial discrimination. She and the other four golfers were the only African Americans on the course at the time.

A golf course representative was not available for comment as of press time.

All allegations of discrimination are important to the commission, Lassiter said. But some cases, like the one involving Grandview, are widely publicized and take priority.

Should either the state commission or the EEOC determine there was an act of discrimination, the parties would then be invited to reach a confidential resolution.

From there, the cases could take different tacks.

If an agreement isn’t reached through the EEOC process, the federal agency would decide whether to sue Grandview in court.

In the absence of an agreement at the state level, the case would likely move to an investigation. At the conclusion, the parties would have another chance to settle, say, if the investigator finds probable cause that discrimination took place. If either party remains unhappy with the outcome, the case eventually could move to Commonwealth Court. Decisions on how each investigation is handled are made on a case-by-case basis.

The administrative filings were announced at a rally held June 11 at Dover United Church of Christ in Dover.

Harrison is being represented by attorney Daniel Poretz of Alexandria, Virginia-based King, Campbell & Poretz.

Dow’s and Thompson’s complaints were being filed by Philadelphia-based Zeff Law Firm LLC. Crosby and Ojo also plan to file complaints against Grandview, Crosby said at the rally, which was broadcast on Facebook.

Over the last two months, the Grandview incident has garnered national attention and multiple calls for investigation from state legislators.

On June 12, the Grandview 5 were present at the Senate Democratic Caucus Room in Harrisburg for a press conference, where state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and state Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin County) offered support for the women.

“This shouldn’t happen in Pennsylvania. This shouldn’t happen in the United States. This shouldn’t happen in 2018,” Kim said.

Although Thompson feels that it is an issue she and the women must pursue, it hasn’t been an easy course. Since speaking out, she said, she and the other women have faced threats and hateful messages through social media and phone calls. For now, the sport that the group has bonded over in the past is on the back burner as many of the five feel they’re currently under too much of a microscope.

“We know we have to get back on that horse at some point,” Thompson said. “I developed a love for the game of golf that I never had growing up. I want to get back to there. It will be a long road before we can just get back to playing.”

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Emily Thurlow

Emily Thurlow

​Emily Thurlow covers York County​ for the Central Penn Business Journal. Have a tip? Drop her a line at ethurlow@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter @localloislane.

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