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Claiming he was fired for uttering three little words — “I love ya” — and was falsely branded as a sexual harasser because his company was looking for an “example,” a former data analyst for CGU Insurance has filed suit against the company in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Attorney Samuel A. Dion of Dion & Goldberger filed the suit on behalf of Gregory Pilkington, citing claims of gender discrimination under Title VII, breach of contract, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Pilkington had worked for CGU for 18 years, according to the suit, having climbed the ranks from customer service representative to data analyst by 1996 and earning a promotion to repository manager in 1998. He claims that in March 1998, he signed on to stay with the company for two more years. The contract, he says, provided a bonus that would be withheld only if he were fired “for cause.” Soon after taking the reins as repository manager, Pilkington began communicating with a female CGU data analyst in the company’s Boston office who was scheduled to begin working under Pilkington’s supervision in September 1999. Pilkington claims his contacts with the woman were professional and that he e-mailed or phoned her once or twice a week to see how she was doing because he was required to check on her while she was out on short-term disability. During their conversations, the suit says, the woman “frequently confided in [Pilkington] about numerous personal details [of] her difficult personal and family life.” In one September 1999 conversation, while she was still out on disability leave, Pilkington claims that he said “I love ya … and I am looking forward to you coming back.” He claims the remark was made “in a completely innocent context” but that CGU officials told him less than a week later that the woman had reported the incident as alleged sexual harassment. Pilkington claims he immediately acknowledged using the words “I love ya” but tried to explain the context. He says he told the investigators that if they were going to question the propriety of his conduct, they should also investigate the woman’s conduct. The suit says Pilkington had no history of sexual harassment and “a completely unblemished and impeccable reputation in the community for friendliness and moral conduct.” But despite that, the suit alleges, CGU fired Pilkington “without conducting any meaningful investigation.” The suit says CGU also failed to investigate the woman and “has rarely, if ever, disciplined or investigated any charges of sexual harassment or related misconduct by its female employees.” Pilkington claims the company knew that none of his conduct “came even close to rising to the level of sexual harassment.” The true reasons he was fired, the suit says, were to “make an example” of him — which he alleges would not have been done if he had been female — and to avoid paying his bonus by making it appear he had been fired for cause. Attorney Dion argues that CGU’s handling of sexual harassment complaints “has a disparate effect on males.” And by falsely disclosing to his former co-workers that he was fired for cause, the suit alleges, CGU defamed Pilkington. In the same count, he claims he was required to tell colleagues, friends and family that he was fired for sexual harassment, even though the charges were false. The suit, Pilkington v. CGU Insurance Co. Inc., 00-cv-2495, has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jay C. Waldman.

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