Former employee alleges Illinois treasurer sexually harassed him

A former employee of the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office has filed a lawsuit alleging a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Edmund Michalowski made the allegations in a civil complaint filed in federal court Monday, February 10, 2014.  Michalowski worked in the state treasurer’s office from January 2011 to February 2014.

In his complaint, Michalowski claims State Treasurer Dan Rutherford forced him to work on political campaigns, publicly berated his performance on those campaigns, promoted him without pay increases and made sexual advances toward him that included inappropriate touching and comments about his appearance.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said the allegations are false.

The treasurer’s office said that an investigation is being conducted, but documents and records in the Treasurer’s Office that were reviewed in a preliminary investigation did not support the allegations.

Michalowski claims Rutherford’s chief of staff, Kyle Ham, did nothing about Michalowski’s repeated complaints about Rutherford’s alleged conduct and that Ham defended Rutherford.  Michalowski claims Ham said he, too, had been the target of sexual advances from Rutherford.

A spokesperson from Rutherford’s office said there were no reports from Michalowski nor anybody else about any type of misconduct on claims that are 2 – 3 years old.

“Chief of Staff Kyle Ham vehemently denies that any report was made to him about this conduct,” said a spokesperson from Rutherford’s Office.

Michalowski alleges Rutherford made sexual advances toward him multiple times including incidents at Rutherford’s home, at ‘Republican Day’ at the 2011 Illinois State Fair, at the 2012 Republican National Convention and at an office holiday party in December 2013.

The statement from Rutherford’s Office claims that records that were reviewed by the treasurer’s office “bear no resemblance to Michalowski’s allegations,” they also added that “Michalowski did not report any incidents of misconduct to his supervisor or through the Equal Employment Opportunity process.”

Michalowski’s lawsuit claims he was forced to work outside the scope of his job description to solicit donations, answer emails and organize events and volunteers for the Rutherford Campaign and for the Mitt Romney for President campaign, for which Rutherford was state chairman.  He also alleges he was berated for failing to bring in more money to the campaigns, and that others who were active in the campaigns received raises and promotions.

The statement from Rutherford’s Office suggests that employees in the administration are not pressured to take part in political activity. Further, they said that any employees who perform political activities have volunteered their time.

“Participation in politics is not a factor in advancement at the treasurer’s office,” said a spokesperson from Rutherford’s Office.

Michalowski also claims he was promoted twice – first from deputy director to director of community affairs and later to director of the merged community affairs and marketing departments – with no pay increase.  His lawsuit claims his salary stayed the same throughout his tenure at the treasurer’s office.

The lawsuit blames Rutherford’s and Ham’s conduct for Michalowski developing “leakage of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain for which he has undergone four blood patches and one occipital nerve block.”

Among remedies requested, Michalowski asked for the wage increases he claims he should have received, plus interest, punitive damages and that the court require Rutherford and Ham to stop their alleged discriminatory conduct.

Rutherford’s Office went on to claim that the allegations were presented “on the eve of a political debate on January 23, 2014, and six weeks before a contested primary election.” The allegations were reportedly presented by Michalowski’s attorney with the demand of $300,000 to keep the accusations “under wraps.”

Michalowski has not commented on that claim.

Rutherford’s Office claimed that Michalowski was recently having financial troubles.

Read the lawsuit here –> Michalowski v Rutherford and Ham lawsuit filed 2-10-14

Read the statement from the Office of the Illinois Treasurer here –> Press Release on Edmund Michalowski Claims

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