Church Sexual Harassment Case Shows Issues Can Occur Anywhere Reports Chicago Employment Lawyer
Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) January 13, 2012 - Even working in a church has its drawbacks at times. This sexual harassment case took on an unbelievable twist, as it happened in a church.
“Jones v. Lockard is a somewhat dramatic case, in that the precursor events took place in a church, the last place one would expect sexual harassment and retaliation,” said Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.
The respondent in this case, Cheryl Lockard, filed a claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, alleging sexual harassment and retaliatory firing. Lockard stated that Keith Jones had harassed her sexually for at least four years between 2000 and 2004. Jones was accused of making suggestive sexual remarks, using sexual innuendo, showing her explicit sexual photos on his computer, making other sexual remarks about women’s body parts, and telling the respondent to wear miniskirts to work at the First Baptist Church as that was the dress code.
The second part of the charges alleges that the First Baptist Church fired the respondent for filing a sexual harassment complaint. Once the Department had completed their investigation, they found substantial evidence to verify Lockard’s allegations, and thus filed two complaints with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. One was against the church and the other one was against the alleged sexual aggressor.
“Evidently Mr. Jones, the respondent’s supervisor, told Lockard among other things that the Church dress code required her to wear miniskirts, and that the good Lord would not allow him to have an affair with any of the beauties he worked with,” outlined Coffey. Jones was on the church’s management team, the same team that told Lockard she would lose her job if she continued to oppose Jones’s sexual harassment. And, she did lose her job for that reason.
Lockard was not the only woman employed by the church that was harassed. Another woman resigned in 2003 after being fed up with being asked for oral sex, listening to sexual innuendo and forced to look at suggestive pictures on another employee’s computer. Lockard complained to the board chairman, who confronted Jones about the allegations. Jones denied asking for oral sex but indicated the work atmosphere was casual.
The church board members ordered Jones to stop the harassment in the workplace and assumed that the actions would cease. They did not and Jones continued to make sexual remarks to staff. The remarks and actions were reported and Jones told Lockard her job was not in jeopardy, but it would be if she did not bring her concerns directly to him. Over time, the behavior continued and Jones told the board that Lockard was falsely accusing him and causing him problems by not being cooperative. For some reason, the Board fired Lockard.
In a hearing before an administrative law judge, the Judge ruled in favor of Lockard and issued an order that the found the petitioners liable on both charges and Lockard was awarded damages. The petitioners filed an exception and an appeal followed.
“The key to this case is that the appeal court could find no evidence to the contrary that Lockard’s description of the hostile workplace was flawed. There were other female employees with similar issues, and indeed one quit because of the harassment. In other words, there was enough evidence to support the initial findings of the administrative law judge, and therefore the court upheld the original decision,” added Coffey.
The point to be noted in this instance is that cases like this take many twists and turns, and often end up with extensive investigations being done to verify evidence. To successfully pursue a case such as this, it is essential to hire a skilled Chicago employment lawyer. There are often questions about filing deadlines in cases like this and that is what the Chicago employment lawyer does. A skilled employment attorney keeps an eye on deadlines, files the appropriate paperwork, assists the plaintiff to understand the issues and gets the situation resolved on their behalf.
Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit Employmentlawcounsel.com.
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
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