Now THIS Is Sexual Harassment!

Meet your new boss...

Meet your new boss…

In Chicago, “A Cook County highway boss asked a woman who worked for him ‘to come into his office every day at around 4 o’clock while he watched porn and masturbated,’ the woman claims in court.”

There’s really no ethics controversy in stories like this, other than the same three questions I have after all of them:

1. How can someone be in a position of authority in the 21st Century and not know this kind of conduct toward an employee is not only horribly wrong, but illegal?

2. Why would any woman put up with this for so long…16 months, according to the complaint? Shouldn’t the first episode be the last one? Would you say to such a creature, “Now, that’s enough. I don’t want you calling me into your office to watch you masturbate ever again. Okay?”

3. What the hell is  the matter with men, anyway?

From the Courthouse News Service:

Philishia Fields and Helen Chandler sued the Cook County Highway Department, Keith Washington and Mike Davis in Cook County Court [claiming] their bosses at the Highway Department, Washington and Davis, sexually harassed them for years.
“(F)rom approximately July 2010 through October 2011, Washington asked Fields to come into his office every day at around 4 o’clock while he watched porn and masturbate,” the complaint states. During these 15 or 16 months, “every day that Washington was not in a meeting, he would masturbate in his office at around 4 o’clock,” according to the complaint….She claims that “on four separate occasions, Washington told Fields to masturbate while he masturbates.”….According to the 38 page complaint, from July 2010 through October 2011, “Washington asked for oral sex on a daily basis”…She claims: “Washington constantly rubbed his penis on Fields’ butt when he walked behind her despite there being sufficiently room to avoid bodily contact.”

She claims that Washington frequently offered to pay her for sexual favors, to pay for her to travel with him for sex, to pay for new clothes or to pay her bills if she had sex with him….Fields claims Mike Davis also asked her for sexual favors repeatedly and made sexual comments about her body. Co-plaintiff Chandler makes similar claims against Washington. Although Fields repeatedly requested transfers due to the sexual harassment, she did not receive one until October 2011, when she was given additional job duties, but not paid a higher wage, she says….”

The complaint claims that “(T)he sexual harassment Fields was subjected to by the hands of Washington, was severe, persistent in nature, unwelcome, extremely offensive, humiliating, and effective in creating a hostile and intimidating work environment for Fields that substantially interfered with Fields’ ability to perform her job.” Gee, ya think?

How many people like this are out there? If they are so ethically bereft that this kind of conduct doesn’t set of ethics alarms, what else are they capable of? My guess would be everything from arson to cannibalism. It’s scary.

______________________________________

Facts: Courthouse News Service

Graphic: Markosun
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17 thoughts on “Now THIS Is Sexual Harassment!

  1. I could be totally out of line here, but given the notorious corruption of Cook County, Illinois government, I find it hard not to suspect that layers of government bureaucracy, patronage and an entitlement mentality all had something to do with both the behavior and the fact that it took this long for something to happen.

    • Please elaborate. How would corruption, which I don’t doubt, stop both women from saying, “What the —? I’m not sticking around to work for this pig!” after the first incident?

      • I can think of several ways – and I’ll freely admit that all of it is speculation (always a dangerous game). But essentially – assuming there’s merit to the lawsuit – the men could have convinced the women that they were well protected and that their complaints would go nowhere. And that may have been the case; it’s perfectly possible that the women complained upstairs and got no relief.

        An intriguing added element here is that if you check into things you find out that Washington appears to now be RETIRED from his position with Cook County highways. Perhaps these gals just figured that he was a short timer and that he’d be out of there soon enough. Or perhaps other aspects of the job were good enough that they decided to put up with the outrageous behavior for a while.

        Like I said, it’s speculation.

        • Although Fields repeatedly requested transfers due to the sexual harassment, she did not receive one until October 2011, when she was given additional job duties, but not paid a higher wage

          I can think of several ways – and I’ll freely admit that all of it is speculation (always a dangerous game). But essentially – assuming there’s merit to the lawsuit – the men could have convinced the women that they were well protected and that their complaints would go nowhere. And that may have been the case; it’s perfectly possible that the women complained upstairs and got no relief.

          That seems to have been the case. Complain through proper channels – get nowhere. The alternative is to resign, get no unemployment, lose pension, and get blacklisted so you never work again.

          When people this high up the food chain in government do nothing over such an egregious example, even “accidents” can happen. Only when they retire and are no longer in positions of power is it safe to take action. Until then, document, document, document. Keep records.

          I’ve seen far too much of this before. If the perp, the police chief, the DA, the judge, and the Lt Governor all belong to the same fraternity – likely for the perp to become the boss of a department – the fix is in.

          • Then they need to pay some attention to the society around them. People who are victimized when there are well-publicized laws in place that prevent the way they are being treated are partially culpable for their own ignorance. I know such people are victimized because of their ignorance, and this doesn’t alter the culpability of their victimizers. But read a little, for God’s sake. Sexual harassment is well represented in pop culture, on TV and in the movies, as well as in news sources. And then there’s common sense. Why would anyone work for someone who behaves like this for 16 months?

        • It’s fair speculation. I’d also speculate that they were self-victimizing fools to the extent that it is true. Even victims have a duty to mitigate their own harm. If I read a story about a clerk who now complains that his boss hit him over the head with a brick every day for two years, no matter how many times he asked that he stop, my sympathy is somewhat constrained.

          • A point well taken. But I’d note the following from Zoe:

            That seems to have been the case. Complain through proper channels – get nowhere. The alternative is to resign, get no unemployment, lose pension, and get blacklisted so you never work again.

            And that may well be the crux. I doubt the women were idiots in this. Cook County employee benefits – particularly for retirees – are legendary. Again, speculating – but I’d guess that these gals were enjoying pretty decent pay for not-very-demanding jobs, with the promise of a retirement package a decade or two down the road that most in the private sector could only dream about.

            Now, is that worth watching the boss jerk off every afternoon? I’m not them. I will say that I used to work as an EMT in a major city. and I daresay there were moments there that were more disgusting.

  2. This seems to represent one of two extremes…either the boss was a completely unrepentent chauvinist, or the women in this case are significantly embellishing the truth. To Jack’s point, in this day and age, everyone is fully aware of the rules. Protections, legal and otherwise, exist for those who report such behavior. So why would someone put up with such behavior on a daily basis for over a year?

    This reminds me of the maxim “there are three sides to every story: his version, her version and the truth”. Here’s what I think. There’s no way today that people put up with sexual harassment, especially working for government – unless it isn’t unwanted. This view will certainly engender some controversy, but I’ll express it anyway.

    The prevailing viewpoint is that any relationship between supervisor and subordinate offers prima facie evidence of sexual harassment because of the disparity in power that exists. I would argue that in an environment where we are much more attuned to sexual harassment issues, that the mere existence of a sexual relationship between supervisor and subordinate does not constitute harassment; in fact one definition of harassment calls it the “unwanted sexual advances” of one person to another. This isn’t to say that employers should accept relationships between supervisor and subordinate – employees who are not sleeping with the boss should not be at a disadvantage. But it does suggest that not every relationship rises to the level of harassment.

    So here’s my speculation: imagine if the relationship was one of mutual consent that for whatever reason feel apart. And this reason so upset the subordinate that she claimed sexual harassment. This would explain why she endured it for so long – because it wasn’t sexual harassment until she got upset and decided to report it. It otherwise becomes difficult to understand why someone would endure this kind of behavior for this long a time period.

  3. NOTE: An essentially anonymous commenter calling herself “Jane Doe” sent in two comments claiming to know the two complainants and one of the accused, and she proceeded to repeat what “she’s heard” about their reliability, sexual habits, character, etc. I can’t post a comment like that. I have, and recently, allowed comments from people who know participants in various stories I deal with here, but anonymous reports that could amount to slander are both unreliable and unfair.

  4. Hi Jack you cant assume that its unreliable and unfair because I wish to not disclose who i am…this case is still open in court. I would never slander anyones character unless I knew….I can say my name is Helen Pierce and even still that doesnt say anything….perhaps the post from Achilles Heel could be me in fact it is

    • The problem, “Jane,” is that you are making assertions about someone’s character without standing behind them, and being accountable. I am not slandering anyone—I’m reporting a court filing. My general comments are about all such incidents, of which many are substantiated, and this one might be as well. For you to post here, I need a real e-mail and true name from you, or anyone. You have no idea if the defendants are innocent. The fact that you’ve seen the defendant and a plaintiff together? Proves nothing at all. Your statements about the plaintiff’s family relations—how are they relevant? She could be a serial killer and still be telling the truth about being sexually harassed. I work in this field, and equally horrible and outrageous stories ARE true. My questions were relevant to these as well.

      Unsigned, unidentified personal attacks on anyone are, by definition, unfair, and I don’t allow them here. Those are the rules.

  5. I respect how you feel in regards to my post…but can I ask you to investigate a little further? I hope and pray this situation is publicized so it will expose who she really is. How do you think Mr. Washington feels to see his name on the internet? How does his children or wife feel? So if you deal with facts I will no longer be anonymous and maybe I can post what you’re looking for. Seems a little biased to not give me a shot, don’t you think? Thanks for reading. 🙂

    • The matter is in court, and presumably there is either evidence or there isn’t. I didn’t put the story on the internet. I know sexual harassment law is often abused; I also know that employees are often abused. Otherwise exemplary people sometimes are abusers, and some pretty bad people get harassed. It’s not as simple as comparing character.

  6. I thought sexual harassment is “unwanted”….so family gatherings and residing in his property within those 16 months of sexual harrassment does make you question her credibility. Why deal with that for so long? My email address is valid I’ve had it most of my life.

  7. Oh and just to add to your comment….I cant say she is lying just because I’ve seen them together. You’re absolutely right. Her character doesn’t prove anything either, because even a prostitute can get raped…so I agree, however its more to the story than you know. Maybe for a second I got emotionally involved because I know so much about this entire thing. There isnt any evidence supporting her claims either.

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