Mt. Vernon city manager accused of sexual harassment in federal suit
A former receptionist in Mt. Vernon’s Inspection and Engineering Department filed a sexual harassment and retaliation suit against the municipality Oct. 17, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in Benton.
Jennifer McGovern alleges that she has repeatedly been subjected to sexual harassment by City Manager Roy Payne.
Payne told the Record, "There is no truth in her complaint."
According to the complaint, in February, Payne asked McGovern to do “private dances” for him and offered her money each time.
McGovern claims she told her supervisor Gary Stover about the alleged harassment but he did nothing and told her, “I know how Roy is, but unfortunately Roy is the boss.” Stover allegedly advised her to get an attorney and not report the incident to the city's human resources department.
She also claims Payne would touch her around her neck and shoulders, would put his arm around her and hang on her, and would get very close to her face when he would talk to her.
“The actions of Payne created a sexually hostile environment for McGovern,” the complaint states.
McGovern claims her physician placed her on unpaid stress leave on July 7 as a result of Payne’s alleged actions, and then she filed a charge of discrimination against Mt. Vernon with the Equal Employment Opportunity Council and was issued a notice of rights letter on Aug. 29.
On Sept. 12, McGovern received a letter indicating she was discharged from her employment. She filed a second discrimination charge with the EEOC.
“Mt. Vernon has violated Title VII by discrimination against McGovern because of her sex, in the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment, in that the unwelcome sexual harassment unreasonably interfered with her job performance and created an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment,” the complaint states.
McGovern claims she has suffered both actual damages and compensatory damages in the form of emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.
She is asking the court to enter a judgment directing Mt. Vernon to pay her compensatory damages for injuries she suffered as a result of the sexual harassment, directing Mt. Vernon to make her whole for all she would have received including wages, bonuses and all other benefits and costs of the suit together with reasonable attorney fees.
McGovern is represented by A. Courtney Cox of Hart & Hart in Benton. The case has been assigned to District Judge J. Phil Gilbert.