Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Report: Hostile atmosphere, sexual harassment pervaded Reps' Office of the Speaker

State Government

By Rich Peters | Aug 23, 2019

Illinoiscapitol2

Editor's Note: After more than a year of outside investigation, a report has been released surrounding claims of sexual harassment and overall workplace cultural issues within the Illinois House of Representatives, Office of the Speaker. This is Part 2 of a report on the 202-page document.

The report evaluating the workplace of the Office of the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives was not supposed to be partisan –  but, the writers said, there was no escaping the fact that during the time period in question, Democrats controlled the office.

In June of 2018, after consulting with members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the Speaker of the House’s Office hired Schiff Hardin LLP and firm partner Maggie Hickey to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment and assess the workplace culture.

The reality of the Capitol workplace, the writers said, is that political activities can have an effect on state government.

“Many people who work in the Speaker’s Office volunteer or work for political organizations in their free time or while on leave from state work,” the report said. “One of these political organizations is the Democratic Party of Illinois. DPI represents the U.S. Democratic Party in Illinois, and its purpose is to win elections for select Democratic candidates.”

The report said both Michael Madigan, who retaliated against those who came forward with sexual accusations, and Timothy Mapes, who also retaliated and was accused of making years of sexual comments, held high and powerful positions within the DPI.

“Notably for the purposes of this report, Michael Madigan and Timothy Mapes have held prominent positions in both the Speaker’s Office and in DPI for decades. ...Specifically, Michael Madigan has been the Chair of DPI since 1998. Before he resigned in June 2018, Timothy Mapes was the Executive Director for DPI,” the report said.

Hickey several times mentioned interviewed workers being uninformed on certain protocols pertaining to workplace harassment. 

“During their interviews, many Capitol workers were unaware of their responsibilities regarding harassment and their protections from harassment,” the report said. “To some extent, their confusion was and is justified. The laws in these areas are frequently misunderstood, and the complexity of these laws is compounded in unique legislative workplaces like the Speaker’s Office."

Hickey, however, said that confusion at the Capitol was no excuse for such behavor, which he blamed from the top (Madigan and Maples) down on a lack of training – which the state requires.

“Various Illinois laws also require anti-sexual harassment policies and corresponding training," the report said. "The State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, for example, requires each constitutional officer; Illinois legislator; appointee; elected commissioner, trustee, director, or board member; and full-time, part-time, and contract worker to complete anti-harassment training. The Speaker’s Office’s Personnel Rules and Regulations (Speaker’s Policies) have expressly prohibited sexual discrimination and harassment since at least the early 1990s. The Speaker’s Policies also impose a higher standard of behavior on workers than the relevant laws do.”

The report broke down a number of state and federal rules and regulations that are set to protect people against discrimination in the workplace as well as a 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report emphasizing that it is in employers’ best interest to prevent harassment in the workplace.

“There Is a compelling business base for stopping and preventing harassment," the report said. "When employers consider the costs of workplace harassment, they often focus on legal costs, and with good reason. Last year, EEOC alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment – and these direct costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Workplace harassment first and foremost comes at a steep cost to those who suffer it, as they experience mental, physical and economic harm. Beyond that, workplace harassment affects all workers, and its true cost includes decreased productivity, increased turnover and reputational harm. All of this is a drag on performance – and the bottom line.

“In other words, even if laws, customs, and morality did not press organizations to stop and prevent harassment – which they increasingly do – it would still be in organizations’ interests to stop and prevent harassment. This is just as true for the Speaker’s Office, even though it is a unique legislative organization.”

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