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Man files racial, sexual harrassment suit against former employer

By Andrew Thomason | Sep 19, 2013

A man is seeking a jury trial for alleged racial and sexual harassment that he claims cost him his job.

Jonathan Conley filed a lawsuit Sept. 16 in Chicago’s federal court against his former supervisor, Nicholas Jimenez, and former employer, Universal Steel America, Inc., accusing them of violating the Civil Rights Act, as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Conley, an African-American man, asserts in his suit that he was qualified to perform his job as a crane operator, but was fired in September 2012 after filing a complaints alleging racial and sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights three months earlier.

Conley’s suit includes three counts alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act: racial discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment based on race and, retaliation. It also includes a count under the Human Rights Act for discrimination on the basis of sex.

The allegations in the suit focus on the time period of April 24, 2012 and June 26, 2012, Conley’s first three months at Universal Steel America.

During those three months,  Conley asserts in his suit that “Jimenez would walk up behind Plaintiff and ‘hump’ him on a regular basis … would walk up behind Plaintiff and slap him on his backside on a regular basis … sent sexually explicit pictures to Plaintiff … made racially explicit comments to Plaintiff about African-Americans.”

Conley’s suit states that he found Jimenez’s actions offensive, unwelcomed and unwarranted and asked him to stop but Jimenez did not. He also claims that Universal Steel America was either aware of the harassment, or made aware of the harassment, but did nothing to stop it.

On or about June 26, Conley filed two charges against Jimenez and Universal Steel America with the Department of Human Rights relating to the alleged harassment, the suit states.

“After Plaintiff filed his two charges with the IDHR, Defendant Universal Steel retaliated against the Plaintiff,” the suit asserts.

The alleged retaliation included a Universal Steel plant manager telling other employees to take pictures and/or video with their cellphones that could be used as a reason to fire Conley. Universal Steel President Greg Shunk also allegedly “stated in a conversation that he would love to kill the Plaintiff and put him in the hill behind the factory,” the complaint states.

Conley claims he was fired three months after filing the charges with the department.

“Defendant terminated Plaintiff although he was performing to his employer’s legitimate expectations and could continue to perform his job, and otherwise harassed Plaintiff in various ways designed to impede his ability to work for Defendant,” the suit states.

Conley’s suit seeks punitive damages and/or liquidated damages and general and compensatory damage, as well as attorneys’ fees, costs, expenses and pre-judgment interests.

Chicago attorney Jonathan Ksiazek represents Conley.

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