Friday, March 23, 2018

Is “too little, too late” for sexual harassment worth $350,000, legal fees?

A one-time aide to the political operations of Illinois Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan is suing both the state Democratic Party and the Friends of Michael J. Madigan organizations, seeking $350,000 (plus legal fees) to make up for the sexual harassment she says she had to endure on her job.
Alaina Hampton is taking Michael Madigan and the Democrats in Illinois to court. Photo provided by Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin law firm
Yet that may be the wrong focus – this ‘story’ isn’t about the money. It’s about wanting to create political embarrassment for people, including Madigan himself, for their refusal to take seriously her early accusations that she was treated as an object of sexual titillation.

ALAINA HAMPTON FILED her lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago late Wednesday, and Thursday morning met with TV-types to ensure that everybody knew all about her legal action.

She claims the fact that she resisted sexual advances by higher-ranking Madigan operatives essentially killed her chances of rising professionally within the Democratic Party ranks, where she worked in a number of roles and campaigns from 2012-17.

One such operative, Kevin Quinn (whose brother is the alderman of the Chicago ward in which Madigan lives) has already been publicly dismissed because of his behavior – which amounts to not being able to recognize that “no” means “no!”
Is there a political path from Fritchey loss ...

In fact, another Madigan aide also has lost his job as a result of sexual harassment allegations.

WHICH HAS MADIGAN-types insisting there’s no problem. The Illinois House speaker learned of allegations, had them investigated, and wound up removing people from their politically-influential positions upon learning of their truth.

Which is true (sort of). Madigan has hired an attorney, Heather Wier Vaught, to look into such matters, and she was the one who uncovered all the harassing and sexually-suggestive e-mail messages that Quinn had sent to Hampton.

But Hampton has implied that it took Madigan quite a while to get off his keister and initiate some action; almost as though he was hoping the problem would go away if it were ignored long enough.
... to eventual Madigan demise?

That ultimately is going to be the issue that will be decided in both this lawsuit, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that Hampton filed in February.

WHAT I FIND most interesting about the Hampton situation is how she has managed to cope with the circumstances her professional life has taken.

After realizing she wasn’t going to have a work-life as part of the Democratic organization, she turned herself into a political consultant for-hire who during this most-recent election cycle worked for the campaign of Bridget Degnan.

She’s the woman who ran for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners and managed to win in Tuesday’s primary, defeating John Fritchey – who had been on the county board since 2010.

While I’m sure she can use the money from a lawsuit or eventual settlement, I don’t doubt the biggest desire of Hampton and those people most enthusiastically supporting her is to create bits of political embarrassment that could force political change.

PERHAPS EVEN CAUSING enough embarrassment to put the political pressure on Madigan himself? I’m not certain this can stretch out that far – mostly because I believe the people inclined to want to dump Madigan are also going to have their own ideological hang-ups that would cause them to want to dismiss the significance of sexual harassment.
DEGNAN: First victory for Hampton?

Trying to make Madigan an enabler of people who can’t keep their hands to themselves amongst women might be too much of a stretch. I’m not sure I see a connection that can be drawn from Fritchey’s demise to the dreams of “Dump Madigan!” that Gov. Bruce Rauner and his biggest fanatics will be spewing forth in coming months.

For her part, Hampton said Thursday she is hoping this encourages other women who have suffered harassment to come forth. “They are watching closely to see how my case is handled,” she said.

While also watching closely will be Madigan & Co., watching to see if the issue is capable of gaining any traction between now and the Nov. 6 general election.


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