Cook County Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Chicago interfaith group has June 24 response deadline in sexual harassment, retaliation case

Lawsuits

By Karen Kidd | Jun 21, 2019


CHICAGO — A sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit by two women against their former employer, a Chicago interfaith group, is moving ahead after a federal judge declined to toss out the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah of the Illinois' Northern District Eastern Division, denied International Fellowship of Christians and Jews' motion to dismiss and set a June 24 deadline for the group to respond to the women's complaint.

The Fellowship had argued in its motion that the women's complaint contained no factual allegations  "under the law as sexual harassment," including under the Illinois Human Rights Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.


U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah | law.uchicago.edu

"But it makes no argument, and cites no law, pertaining specifically to the Illinois Human Rights Act," Shah said in his June 10 opinion and order. "Absent any argument that some pertinent aspect of Illinois’ Human Rights Act differs from Title VII, and especially where the Fellowship has moved to dismiss these claims via a single, sweeping reference and has failed to support those arguments with any citation to the complaint or Illinois law, the Fellowship's motion to dismiss is denied."

The Fellowship was founded in 1983 with a stated goal to promote understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians.

Plaintiffs in the case, Margaret Kennedy and Leah Miles-Cacella, filed their claims under the state and federal laws with Miles-Cacella also bringing claims under the Illinois Wage Protection and Collection Act.

Kennedy alleges "one of her supervisors at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews stared at her breasts, spread his legs suggestively and refused to promote her because she would not have sex with him," said the background portion of 15-page opinion and order.

Miles-Cacella alleges "that the Fellowship retaliated against her when she reported similar conduct and then terminated her because of her sex," the opinion and order said. "She also alleges she was promised a bonus if she met certain undefined metrics, and that the Fellowship abused its discretion when it declined to award that bonus."

The Fellowship's motion sought to dismiss the women's complaint in its entirety, specifically arguing that Miles-Cacella's allegation about the promised bonus was unreasonable.

"Even if the Fellowship was free to base their decision on any metric, the issue cannot be disposed of via a motion to dismiss where the Fellowship has failed to point to any justification for not awarding the bonus that is not at least partially contradicted by the allegations in the complaint," the opinion and order said. "The Fellowship argues that Miles-Cacella never demanded her bonus or otherwise indicated that she was entitled to it. But the fellowship points to no legal support for the proposition that a demand was required."

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