A former employee and longtime member of Christian Faith Center in Federal Way has filed a lawsuit against the megachurch, claiming Caleb D. Treat, who was a pastor there, had sexually harassed her and other female employees and church members.
The lawsuit, filed by Leslie Massey in July in King County Superior Court, alleges that Treat and the church had discriminated against Massey “by creating a sexually hostile work environment.”
“Defendant Caleb D. Treat repeatedly preyed upon female employees and church members over the course of his employment with Christian Faith Center and involvement in the ministry hierarchy,” according to court documents. “His improper sexual activities were known to his superiors at Christian Faith Center. However, time after time, Christian Faith Center failed to take effective action to protect female Christian Faith Center employees and church members.”
Treat, who was the campus pastor at the Federal Way location and an executive pastor, no longer works at the church, according to church staff.
Treat’s father, Casey Treat, is the founder and senior pastor of Christian Faith Center, which has thousands of attendees each week at campuses in Federal Way, Mill Creek and Gig Harbor.
Colleen Kinerk of Cable, Langenback, Kinerk and Bauer law firm in Seattle is the attorney for the defendants. Kinerk denied the allegations in a response filed with the court on Oct. 17.
Kinerk said in an email that Massey and Caleb Treat were involved in a consensual romantic relationship.
Massey’s attorney, Mark B. Shepherd of Pivotal Law Group in Seattle, has denied the claim that the relationship was consensual.
“My belief is it can never really be consensual when there was disparity in power,” he said, referring to Caleb Treat’s role as Massey’s employer and pastor.
A message to Treat seeking comment was not returned by press deadline. Christian Faith Center declined comment on the case.
“Christian Faith Center has received the pleadings in the lawsuit … and is in the early stages of the discovery process,” Theresa Fazekas, Christian Faith Center’s chief financial officer, said in an email. “Consequently, there is no additional comment at this time.”
According to her attorney, Massey was an active member of the church before she was employed in an administrative position at the Federal Way location in April 2014.
“She was deeply involved in the church for years and years,” Shepherd said. “It was (Massey and her family’s) religious, social and entire community, as well as her work. When this happened, it is as if they were ostracized and not really embraced after it happened.”
Shepherd said Massey worked at the church until March, when she was put on a leave of absence. She was dismissed from her position within the past month, Shepherd said, through constructive discharge, which occurs when an employee resigns as a result of a hostile work environment created by the employer.
Because Christian Faith Center has denied the allegations, Shepherd said litigation will proceed.
According to the lawsuit, Massey is seeking unspecified damages for “loss of earnings, compensation and benefits; mental and emotional trauma, humiliation, pain and suffering; loss of reputation and social status.”
It is unfortunate the church’s leadership did not do anything about Caleb Treat’s behavior toward his client, Shepherd said.
“As I understand it, Caleb’s inappropriate activities were well known to the management structure of the church,” Shepherd said. “Much of that was kept secret from the membership of the church, members of the congregation.”
According to the website lawyersandsettlements.com, Christian Faith Center agreed in 2007 to pay $700,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man and his parents who had accused staff of failing to protect the man from sexual abuse years ago by a Sunday school teacher at the church.
This story originally appeared in the Federal Way Mirror.