November, 2013 Issue of Legal Trends

Legal Trends Highlights Lawsuits Sexual Abuse Settlement, New Multi-Plaintiff Employment Case and Pending Legislation.

In this issue of Legal Trends, we discuss two new case developments in our office as well as a significant piece of pending federal legislation.

Tort Law

Hollander Law Offices Settles Sexual Abuse Claim Against The Jesuits For $750,000.

In 1977, Bill Reidy was in his sophomore year at Loyola Academy. He had completed his freshman year at New Trier High School, and welcomed the direction that his new school offered. Bill’s family, devout Catholics, jointly made the decision to switch him to Loyola, feeling that the highly regarded institution would provide him a solid religious and educational background.

Bill’s life, however, was shattered when he was summoned to Father Donald O’Shaughnessy’s room, presumably to discuss school matters. During the meeting, the cleric told Bill “that this room is a sacred room, and what goes on in here stays in here.” At that time, O’Shaughnessy sexually abused the student. Afterward, he warned Bill that he could be a pretty violent person and would harm him if he told anyone. The Jesuit told Bill that, “if he ever told anyone, no one would believe it, and that when he died he would go to hell and spend eternity being stabbed.” Noticeably shaken, Bill told no one.

During the course of his sophomore and junior years, the Jesuit required Bill to come to his room on a number of occasions. Similar unspeakable things happened.

When he returned home, his mother noticed that he was visibly shaken, but he refused to divulge what happened. Bill graduated from Loyola but buried these horrific events deep in his mind. They would remain suppressed for more than 30 years.

Bill initially attended college at St. Norberts in Wisconsin, but left because “it did not feel right.” He then attended St. Leo’s College in Florida for one semester, but that fared no better. He returned home, went to Oakton Community College, and eventually received a degree from Kendall College.

Bill lost all of his spirituality. Shortly after the sexual abuse occurred, Bill still attended church, but had to sit at the end of the pew – he experienced panic attacks to the point where he could not breathe. When his brother got married in 1995, he inexplicably could not step foot in church.

Earlier this year, during some medical treatment, the memories resurfaced. Over the course of the year, additional memories came forward, enabling Bill to provide extraordinary detail concerning O’Shaughnessy’s room. Bill, through our office, initiated a claim against The Jesuits.

During the investigation of Bill’s claim, our office learned that five other allegations of sexual abuse had been lodged against The Jesuits for sexual abuse involving O’Shaughnessy. The Jesuit died shortly before the mediation, which transpired this past July. At mediation, The Jesuits agreed not to assert defenses concerning the statute of limitations or the Illinois’ Dead Man’s Act, which bars evidence concerning events involving a deceased party. In order to resolve Bill’s sexual abuse claim, The Jesuits agreed to pay him $750,000. Bill was courageous enough to share this story so other victims would come forward.

 

Employment Law

Hollander Law Offices Files Same Sex Harassment Case Against Uline, Inc.

Uline, Inc. is one of the largest distributors of office and industrial products in the country. Working for Uline, however, was no ordinary day at the office for four employees of Uline. On October 2, 2013, the Hollander Law Offices filed suit against the company asserting claims of sexual harassment on behalf of Allen Fuesting, Jonathan Savage, Joshua Gehrig, and Laurie Garza.

Fuesting was a long time employee of the company, being hired in 1998. His employment was uneventful until Warehouse Manager, Scott Zingsheim, began to treat him in an untoward manner in 2008. According to Fuesting, Zingsheim repeatedly spanked his butt, rubbed his shoulders, blew in his ear, and tapped his genitals with his hand. When Fuesting complained to the President of the company, Dick Uihlein, he purportedly brushed aside his concerns, telling him that he had to go through “proper channels.” In March, 2012, Fuesting sent an e-mail to a Human Resources representative, complaining of the harassment. At a subsequent meeting with Uline management, they allegedly claimed that the company had undertaken an investigation and that Fuesting’s allegations lacked merit. Uline then terminated Fuesting’s employment. The company offered him a severance package of six months pay if he released his claims. He refused. The company then offered 12 months pay and Fuesting hired an attorney. In addition to his harassment claim, Fuesting has alleged that the company retaliated against him.

Savage’s experience was similar, but with Warehouse Department Manager, James Small. In March, 2012, Savage also made a complaint to the company. In April, 2012, Uline terminated Savage’s employment. He, too, has a pending retaliation claim.

Gehrig worked under Zingsheim and allegedly experienced inappropriate conduct from 2006 through 2012. Gehrig could not tolerate the offensive behavior and was forced to quit his employment in the summer of 2012.

Garza began employment with Uline in April, 2006 as a freight clerk. She claims that Zingsheim began to offensively touch her starting in March, 2007. At the time of the filing of the lawsuit, Garza was still employed by the company. Uline, however, terminated her employment on October 17, 2012, for no apparent reason.

Our office is waiting for authorization from the EEOC so that the lawsuit can be amended to include a claim of retaliation on her behalf.

If successful on their federal employment claims, each of the plaintiffs could recover $300,000 for compensatory or punitive damages against the company, exclusive of their lost wages.

The original filing of the lawsuit, and Garza’s subsequent claim of retaliation, were covered by CBS-2 Chicago. We will keep you posted on this very compelling case.

 

Senate Passes Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

21 states including Illinois have laws which prohibit discrimination in the workplace against sexual orientation. There is no such law yet on the federal level. Recently, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, “ENDA.”

While a recent study found that 63% of Americans would vote for such a law, it does not appear likely that the law will pass in the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

House Speaker, John Boehner, called the legislation “unnecessary” and commented that it would provide a “basis for frivolous lawsuits.” It is not clear why ENDA would encourage more frivolous lawsuits compared to current federal laws protecting employees from discrimination based upon race, gender, age or disability. While it may not pass in 2013, a version of ENDA is likely to be passed in the future.

Without ENDA, a gay or lesbian employee who loses their job in Illinois due to discrimination is limited to filing a claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Punitive damages are unavailable under state law, enabling employers to repeatedly discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without real consequences.

 

About the author

Eugene Hollander is a trial attorney who currently heads his own law office in Chicago. Mr. Hollander has tried numerous cases in the state and federal courts. The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander is a full service law firm, concentrating its practice in employment discrimination claims, personal injury and medical malpractice suits, and various types of commercial litigation. For more information, visit our web site at www.eugenekhollanderlaw.com, or contact us directly at:

 

The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander

230 W. Monroe

Suite 1900

Chicago, IL 60606

(312)-425-9100

E-mail: EHollander@ekhlaw.com

 

Copyright © 2013 The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander. This publication may be considered advertising material under the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility and is not intended to create any attorney-client relationship. The reader should not rely upon any statement or opinion as legal advice, but rather, should consider it as generally informative.