A former employee of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow Push Coalition has filed what Chicago news outlets are calling a “bombshell” complaint with the Chicago Commission on Human Rights, alleging Jackson ridiculed him for being gay, and even asked him for oral sex on at least one occasion.
Jackson has denied all the charges.
Tommy R. Bennett, who is openly gay, alleges in his complaint that Jackson frequently belittled him in front of staff members because of his sexual orientation. He claims Jackson continually assigned him humiliating tasks such as escorting women to Jackson’s hotel room, cleaning up after trysts and packing the civil rights leader’s suitcase.
Bennett worked for Rainbow Push for two years as its National Director of Community Affairs. He claims he was subjected to ongoing harassment throughout this period. The organization later terminated him. Bennett alleges the termination was in retaliation for complaints he filed internally.
Bennett advised President Obama’s 2008 campaign on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Rainbow Push issued a statement saying it is cooperating fully with the investigation. The commission is still investigating and has not yet issued any findings.
Note: Employers with high-profile leaders such as Jackson face a double-edged sword. Fame makes leaders easy targets for lawsuits. And if the leader behaves inappropriately, there may be no one in the organization who feels confident enough to intervene. That’s why these cases often end up in court.