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Did serial harasser fare better than the victim at DHS?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources

Jacqueline Smith worked as a server in the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) John J. Madden Mental Health Center from 2000 to 2004.

In September 2003, a co-worker, Eddie Spivey, allegedly called Smith a sexually explicit name while their supervisor, Bella Ynares, was present. Smith asked Ynares to speak to Spivey about his comment.

From then on, Smith said Spivey repeatedly harassed her, calling her names and telling co-workers she masturbated in the workplace, used sex toys, had indiscriminate sex and was spreading a sexually transmitted disease.

After the rumors spread, Smith said several co-workers requested sexual favors from her and one touched her.

In November 2003, Smith filed a sexual harassment complaint. Shortly after, Ynares asked Spivey to stop spreading rumors about Smith, but the behavior continued. In April 2004, after three more written complaints, HR began an investigation.

On July 7, Smith filed an EEOC complaint. But on July 27, she received notice of a pre-disciplinary hearing concerning excessive absenteeism. Smith later said she had missed work because she could no longer bear Spivey’s harassment. In October, the state fired Smith for having 11 unauthorized absences. She sued.

In court, Smith showed that Spivey, her alleged serial harasser, had more unauthorized absences than Smith for every 12-month period since 2001. Yet Spivey had not been discharged. This, coupled with the timing of Smith’s termination and the DHS’ inaction on Smith’s complaint, all led the court to deny DHS’ request to have the case dismissed. A court now will hear Smith’s harassment and retaliation case. 

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Jacqueline Smith December 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

I won that case some years later and was left to deal with a lot of emotional scars not to mention not being able to return to work even after the wrongful termination was removed from my employment record. It’s extremely sad how dhs has these work rules and policies stating that a person should be able to work in a harassment free environment when they don’t enforce them. However, I understand that they made changes to how they dealt with employee misconduct after I was terminated. Had those changes been implimented during the months of harassment I suffered, things probably wouldn’t have escalated as far as they did. However, I wished that none of what happened hadn’t happened for the sake of keeping my state job, sanity, and being able to support my children, who at the time were very young.

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