Chicago, IL-Illinois Treasurer and former GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Rutherford has asked the courts to dismiss a pending sexual harassment case against him on the grounds that his male accuser hasn’t met the burden of proof necessary.
The attorneys representing Rutherford asked a federal court Monday to dismiss the harassment case filed by Edmund Michalowski, Rutherford’s former community outreach director, dismissed. Rutherford us scheduled to appear in court Thursday to see if the harassment suit will go forward.
Michalowski is suing Rutherford from sexual harassment, hostile work environment, gender discrimination and wrongful dismissal. In his lawsuit, Michalowski details a number of troubling interactions with Rutherford that made him feel embarrassed.
One incident involved inappropriate touching. Michalowski alleged that in April of 2011, he was invited to overnight office retreat at Rutherford’s home, but no other employees showed up. Michalowski said he and Rutherford ate dinner and afterward Michalowski went up to one of the guest rooms to prepare for bed. While he was in the room Michalowski said Rutherford approached him and grabbed his groin. Michalowski left immediately and drove two hours back to his home.
In another incident, Rutherford invited Michalowski to his hotel room while the two men were attending a conference, but Michalowski refused to which Rutherford replied, “You just said no to the treasurer.” Michalowski took that as threat.
According the NBC Chicago, Rutherford’s motion maintains that these two incidents “were fairly isolated” and were not sufficient enough to prove Michalowski’s sexual harassment claim since federal law requires victims prove their harassment was repeated and pervasive. This is a very important factor and sexual harassment attorneys are constantly challenged with meeting this burden of proof.
Michalowski said during his employment Rutherford created a hostile work environment for him and other employees, and discriminated against him because of his gender. Rutherford’s attorneys took issue with this claim, and say Michalowski does not provide any evidence that he was treated differently because of his gender.
In the original suit, Michalowski also alleged he was asked to work on Rutherford’s political campaign while in the state’s dime.
Rutherford’s motion also claims he should be covered by “limited immunity often granted to government officials on the grounds when ‘the unlawfulness of an official’s conduct is not clearly established,’” NBC Chicago reported.
Although Michalowski said the harassment occurred in 2011, he waited to February of this year to file the suit. When asked he waited so long, he said he felt like he would be “ridiculed,” and was discouraged from coming forward since he was ignored when he first came forward.
Michalowski said he reported the harassment to Kyle Ham, Rutherford’s chief of staff, but Ham didn’t take his allegations seriously. Michalowski alleges Hamm told him, “it had happened to him as well,” and said, “at least we have job security.”
Rutherford has denied the allegations all along and said Michalowski is just trying to get ahold of money because he is going through a divorce and personal bankruptcy. Rutherford also went so far as too accuse his gubernatorial contender Bruce Rauner, who clinched the nomination, of engineering the sexual harassment suit to smear his name.