After more than a year of outside investigation, a 202-page report has been released surrounding claims of sexual harassment and overall workplace cultural issues within the Illinois House of Representatives, Office of the Speaker.
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 three specific sets of allegations, as stated in the report’s summary:
“Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s allegations that then-Chief of Staff and Clerk of the House Timothy Mapes, Rep. Robert Rita, and Speaker Michael Madigan retaliated against her for speaking out against how the Speaker’s Office handled sexual discrimination and harassment claims;
“Activist Maryann Loncar’s allegations that, years ago, then-Rep. Lou Lang made unwanted sexual advances toward her and bullied her after she rebuffed his sexual advances and disagreed with legislative changes he proposed; and then-Speaker’s Office worker Sherri Garrett’s allegation that, among other things, Mr. Mapes made inappropriate sexual comments to her over the course of several years.”
The Speaker also requested that Hickey and her team both investigate and assess the “overall culture of the Speaker’s Office and review the Speaker’s Office’s procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints,” the report states.
According to the report, Hickey interviewed more than 100 people about the alleged incidents, including current and former members of the Speaker’s Office, legislators, and others involved in Illinois politics and the Capitol workplace. Both Hickey and the Schiff Hardin team also reviewed "thousands of documents," personnel files, text messages, emails, and legislative transcripts and journals, the report states.
The report states that sufficient evidence was not found to conclude that Mapes retaliated against Cassidy or that Lang made unwanted sexual advances toward Loncar, but sufficient evidence was found that Mapes did not "'discharge [his] duties' as chief of staff and clerk of the house 'in a courteous and efficient manner' when he made several inappropriate comments to or around Ms. Garrett.'"
The report states that a fear of retaliation was a major concern.
"We determined that the fear of retaliation that could arise in unforeseen and unprovable ways was a major – if not the major – concern from our survey of people in the Capitol workplace," the report states. "For workers in the Speaker’s Office, this fear of retaliation meant a fear of losing their jobs, not having their contracts renewed, losing access to decision-making processes, having opportunities taken away, having their ideas ignored, having prospective employers receive negative calls, or losing positive references for outside employment. Representatives in the Democratic Caucus, in turn, feared losing campaign contributions, having their legislation stalled or stopped, or being removed from the caucus. For others, it meant a fear of losing access, employment or legislative opportunities."
Over the course of the interviews, Hickey and her team noticed a pattern of workers claiming to be uninformed when it came to workplace rules.
“During their interviews, many Capitol workers were unaware of their responsibilities regarding harassment and their protections from harassment,” according to the report. “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.”
The report then details the influence that the Capitol holds and how they can either oppress or empower not only their local government, but those around them as well.
“Many people believe that the Speaker’s Office has substantial power and influence over the Capitol workplace,” the summary reads. “Some people believe that, historically, this power has been used to silence opposition and that the Speaker’s Office’s reputation has discouraged some people from coming forward. But many people that we interviewed focused, instead, on how the Speaker’s Office can use its power to eliminate harassment and discrimination from the Capitol workplace by being transparent, accountable, and a model for other workplaces and legislatures. We agree.”
Madigan responded to the allegations as well as the investigation, the report states.
“These young women did not feel there was anyone willing to listen or take action to alleviate their concerns,” he was quoted in the report's summary. “What became clear is that I didn’t do enough, and that we, collectively, have failed in the Capitol to ensure everyone can reliably, confidentially and safely report harassment. I thought the pathways were there, but they weren’t.
“Our office is taking immediate steps to improve. We have established a new process to bring complaints so that [the new Chief of Staff Jessica] Basham knows of any future allegations and reports them to me. We will enforce in-person sexual harassment training. Directors and supervisors will receive continuing training on how to better handle workplace behavior. I am accountable for my office and will ensure that any issues are dealt with quickly and appropriately.”
In response to the culture, or lack thereof, within the Capitol, Hickey made some key recommendations, such as strengthen leadership; invest in the workplace and encourage buy-in; address and prevent harassment; and external partnerships and cross-party solutions.
Hickey stated that she believes that the recommendations will improve the Speaker’s Office’s workplace culture.
“These recommendations are based on best practices, as cited throughout this report, and extensive experience investigating workplace misconduct and managing workplaces,” the report states.