Madison County secretary files sexual harassment suit against county

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 28, 2007, 12:35am

A Madison County secretary filed a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint against the county in U.S. District Court Sept. 18 alleging she was exposed to a hostile work environment that included being exposed to pornography.

County Board secretary Robin Beem alleges she was subjected to an unwelcome sexually harassing environment and was required to work in an environment that was objectively and subjectively hostile to her because she was a woman.

"The hostile work environment required plaintiff to be exposed on a daily or near daily basis to extreme, graphic, and debasing computer/internet pornography," Beem's complaint states.

"The sexual harassment that plaintiff was required to endure on a daily or near daily basis had the effect of substantially altering the conditions of plaintiff's work environment," the complaint states.

Beem alleges that on more than one occasion she reported "pervasive, ongoing and continuous sexual harassment and frequent exposure to extreme, graphic and debasing pornography" to high ranking county officials who had the authority to resolve her complaint but failed to take any effective remedial measures.

"High ranking managerial individuals failed to investigate or eliminate the sexual harassment," the complaint states.

Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Three high ranking elected officials in Madison County say Beem's suit is over the actions of former Madison County Administrator Jim Monday, who retired in March 2006, after 20 years on the job.

At the time of Monday's departure Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz confirmed that a computer was taken from the administration building, but declined to say if it belonged to Monday.

Hertz said he would not comment on an internal matter because sometimes internal matters can turn into criminal matters.

Monday began his career with Madison County in 1976. The late Nellie Hagnauer, longtime county board chairman, named Monday director of administration in 1985.

Joseph D. Parente was appointed by Dunstan to replace Monday.

In her suit, Beem also alleges high ranking officials permitted the hostile work environment to continue despite actual knowledge of violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to Beem, she filed a timely charge of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and they issued her a notice of right to sue.

Beem claims she experienced embarrassment, humiliation and severe emotional distress as a result of the sexual harassment and pervasive hostile work environment she was required to work in.

"The work environment which was hostile to plaintiff on account of her sex, female, seriously affected the psychological well being of the plaintiff," the complaint states.

Beem is seeking a judgment in her favor that:

  • Finds that Madison County violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;

  • Awards her compensatory damages for the embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress she experienced;

  • Assesses punitive damages against the defendant in an amount found to be just and appropriate;

  • Enjoins Madison County from further violations of Title VII; and

  • Award her costs, attorney fees, and other relief the court deems just.

    The case has been assigned to District Judge G. Patrick Murphy.

    Beem is represented by Lee Barron of Alton.

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