'Grandview Five' women filing federal, state complaints against Dover Twp. golf club

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

A group of black women who say they were discriminated against for their race and gender while golfing in April at Grandview Golf Club have filed federal and state complaints against the Dover Township business.

The announcement came during a rally in support of the women Monday, June 11, at Dover United Church of Christ.

Three of the five women — Carolyn Dow, Sandra Thompson and Sandra Harrison — are filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which handle discrimination allegations at the federal and state level, respectively.

Sandra Harrison, one of the "Grandview Five" talks about the emotional toll being confronted at the Grandview Golf Club in April by former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, the club's owner.  Monday, June 11, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

The group of avid golfers, who call themselves The Sisters of the Fairway, made national headlines in April after video of them being confronted by course representative and former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister went viral.

More:Listen: 911 calls from Grandview Golf Club about black women playing slowly

More:State agency to hold hearing on Grandview Golf Course discrimination complaint

Chronister, whose family owns the course, called the police on the women after they allegedly refused to leave when accused of playing too slowly.

A man who answered the phone at the course Tuesday, June 12, said the owners have no comment and declined to give his name.

National incidents: The alleged discrimination at Grandview is similar to recent incidents around the country.

In the past two months: Police removed two black men from a Philadelphia Starbucks while they were waiting for a colleague; a black Yale student sleeping on a couch in a dorm common room was rousted by police officers, who were called by a white student; and a white woman called police on a group of black people barbecuing in an Oakland, California, park.

All four stories went viral, and all raised the question: Would police have been summoned if the people involved were white?

The PHRC announced in May it would hold a hearing on the Grandview Golf Club incident.

The hearing is scheduled for June 21-22, according to state Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Philadelphia-area Democrat who moderated Monday's meeting in Dover, but the commission hasn't announced times or a location.

What's next? The women, referred to as the "Grandview Five," and their lawyers now are taking the matter into their own hands.

Dow and Thompson are filing complaints through Zeff Law Firm LLC from Philadelphia, and Harrison is suing through King, Campbell & Portz from Virginia. 

Once complaints are filed, the state and federal agencies will determine whether there is evidence of discrimination.

If a complaint is deemed valid by either agency, the parties are invited to resolve the dispute in a private, confidential setting.

In the EEOC, if an agreement fails, the agency must decide whether to sue the employer in court — which only occurs 8 percent of the time, according to the agency's website.

In the PHRC, if the situation is unable to be mediated, the agency assigns an investigator to look into the issue further.

The remaining two women — Karen Crosby and Myneca Ojo — also plan to file complaints against the golf club, Crosby said.

Four members of the "Grandview Five" - Karen Crosby, Myneca Ojo, Carolyn Dow and Sandra Harrison - take part in a rally at the Dover United Church of Christ featuring state Sens. Art Haywood and Vincent Hughes, both from Philadelphia, Monday, June 11, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

"It's astounding that this is even happening in this century," said Gregg Zeff, a civil rights lawyer for Zeff Law Firm. "I'm disheartened but pleased to announce that the women are filing administrative charges and beginning the process to bring justice to the situation."

Grandview Golf Club has been in communication with lawyers but has failed to communicate with the women, Zeff added. 

Standing up: Dan Poretz, of King, Campbell & Poretz, emphasized that legal action is how the women can best stand up for themselves against the alleged discrimination.

"Discrimination exposed itself in York, Pennsylvania, and this is how we respond to them," he said. "It's unacceptable, it's disgusting and it needs to change. We're here to do that."

Thompson was the only one of the five unable to attend Monday's rally. Harrison handled most of the speaking for the group during the event, often having to pause for applause from an audience that filled the church to capacity.

"It was so overwhelming that day, but we have all come to the conclusion that we have to stand against the action of evil in hopes that it won't happen again," Harrison said. "We've decided to handle this after a lot of thought."

The anniversary of Harrison's mother's death was Tuesday, June 12. She recalled what was said at her funeral.

"We talked about how she had fought the good fight," she said. "I'm her daughter, so I'm ready. We're going to fight."

Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia takes part in a rally about social injustice featuring the "Grandview Five,"  Monday, June 11, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

"We've got to double down, if not triple down, on addressing the issue of tolerance, supporting one another, and hatred," Hughes said. "We are proud of them, and that's only one reason why we're not walking away from them. We're walking toward them, so we can embrace them."

To further address the issue of discrimination in the state, Hughes said, discussions are taking place in the General Assembly to increase funding for the Attorney General's Office and PHRC to increase resources for investigations.

'Heroines': State Sen. Art Haywood, another Philadelphia-area Democrat, joined the rally.

He echoed Hughes' calls for action, emphasizing the need to make the golf course pay for the discrimination against the women he views as "heroines."

''I believe in order to change people's behavior, you got to make them pay," Haywood said. "You may not be able to change their hearts or minds, but once the dollars come out of their account, they will think again. Don't look at these women as victims; look at them as heroines."

He ended with a quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. expressing that society can't take advantage of a minority when they stand up for their rights.

"A man can't ride your back unless it is bent," he said.

News conference: Hughes also held a news conference at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 12, in the Senate Democratic Caucus Room to reiterate calls for policy change and accountability for those who discriminate.

There, he again gave condolences for the women's experiences with other lawmakers and reiterated the need for policy change to help prevent similar incidents in the future.

Speakers included Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, who recalled her own experiences.

"I'm appalled," Hill-Evans said. "Back in the '60s, when I was in college, I was the only African-American on campus at Gettysburg College, and I had girls in the shower looking to see if I had a tail. You don't think things like this are happening anymore, until you come across this kind of situation."

She delivered a message similar to that of Hughes and other lawmakers: Racism is alive and well.

"Racism is alive in the commonwealth, and it's certainly alive in York County," she said. "To those who think it had nothing to do with race, I say, 'If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's going to quack. And it's a duck called racism.'"

Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia County, used his turn to praise the women and endorse anti-discrimination legislation he proposed in in April.

The proposed bill would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to "protect interns and ensure increased training is provided to employees and supervisors to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace," according to the bill's memo. 

The mandated interactive training would need to be conducted with interns and employees once every two years. Supervisors would require additional training.

If employers don't follow training guidelines, they would receive a civil penalty between $500-$1,000 for the first offense and $1,000-$5,000 for subsequent offenses, to be determined by the PHRC.

"I introduced this bill before the Starbucks incident," Rabb said. "Before we even had the chance to process that, the Grandview Five came to pass. Everyone in the commonwealth should feel welcome."

The bill is yet to be voted out of the House Labor & Industry Committee.