“The leader of a Nashville nonprofit resigned in January amid allegations that he repeatedly sexually harassed an employee — including one instance when the woman said he exposed his penis and masturbated in front of her in his office.
The allegations were made public this week in a lawsuit filed in federal court. In it, the employee, a woman identified as Jane Doe, said “she was subjected to an ongoing pattern of assault, battery and ongoing and severe sexually harassing behavior” while working at the Nashville nonprofit Matthew 25, which houses, feeds and treats homeless men.
The lawsuit names former Executive Director James Finchum as a defendant along with Matthew 25. According to the lawsuit, Finchum exposed himself, touched her and made sexually suggestive comments for more than a year.
Finchum resigned this year shortly after the board of directors at Matthew 25 launched an internal investigation.
Nashville police also are pursuing a separate and ongoing investigation related to a complaint the woman filed with a sex crimes detective earlier this year, a police spokesman said.
The lawsuit stated the woman made attempts to handle the issue internally as early as June 2016, and those were “either ignored or rebuffed.”
When she told a Matthew 25 board member she was “afraid” of Finchum at a June 2016 lunch meeting, the board member “took no action” to help her, according to the lawsuit.
More than a year later, after the woman emailed the full board of directors, the woman’s complaints spurred the investigation that resulted in Finchum’s resignation.
In a statement, Matthew 25’s attorney Tracy M. Lujan said the nonprofit’s board “took swift action upon first learning of the alleged harassment in late December, 2017.”
“Matthew 25 has been sensitive to and supportive of the complaining employee, who remains in her position today,” Lujan said. “Matthew 25 has a strong anti-harassment policy. It takes employee complaints very seriously, and it is committed to supporting all of its staff members.”
But the lawsuit said the woman “has been ostracized and her job duties reduced” since she sent the email.
She said Matthew 25 failed to protect her from harassment. She is seeking a jury trial and financial compensation for damages.
Heather Collins, an attorney representing the woman, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
Efforts to reach Finchum were unsuccessful.
Allegations against Finchum stretch back to March 2016
The lawsuit lists a number of allegations stretching back to March 2016, when Finchum was hired.
In December 2016, the lawsuit stated, Finchum called the woman into his office, where he started to massage her and then “grabbed Plaintiff’s hand and placed it on his groin area, through his pants.”
“He then unzipped his pants, exposed his penis to Plaintiff and masturbated in front of her.”
Months later, in April, Finchum “approached Plaintiff from behind and held himself against her buttocks and hunched against her until his pants became wet,” the lawsuit said.
In the lawsuit, the woman said she was discriminated against because of her race and gender.
The lawsuit says Finchum told the woman, who is black, about dating another black woman who handcuffed him during sexual activity.
“White employees were not subjected to the type of assault and battery Plaintiff was,” the lawsuit stated. “Defendant Finchum made references to Plaintiff’s race in the context of his harassment directed toward Plaintiff.”
After she told her co-workers about the harassment in October, they cooperated to keep her from being alone with Finchum, sometimes making excuses for her to leave the office, according to the lawsuit.
On Oct. 31, she called out of work and got medical treatment at an area hospital.
“About an hour later Mr. Finchum appeared at her hospital room and told the nurse on duty that he was her boyfriend,” the lawsuit stated.
Matthew 25 hired a consulting firm to launch an investigation into Finchum’s behavior after the woman sent an email to the board complaining about her working conditions.
“The CEO has gone as far to expose himself to me. These advances, comments and all sexual behaviors are unwelcomed,” she wrote in the email, according to the suit. “I don’t want any problems. I just want this to stop, so I can do my job.”
On Jan. 11, the lawsuit said, Finchum resigned but remained in contact with other employees and board members about day-to-day operations.
Police actively investigating the case
Based on advice from the consultant, the woman filed a police report in January.
Metro police spokesman Don Aaron confirmed that the woman has had multiple conversations with a detective in the department’s sex crimes unit.
“The plaintiff did make a complaint with the police department that is the subject of an active investigation,” Aaron said.”