Administrative Review of the Orders of the Illinois Human Rights Commission Charge No. 2004SN3085, 2004SN3084
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE
JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holdridge and Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 On April 20, 2004, respondent Cheryl Lockard filed a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (Department) of sexual harassment and retaliatory discharge against Keith Jones and First Baptist Church, respectively (petitioners). Lockard's charge alleged that Jones sexually harassed her between August 2000 and April 7, 2004, by inter alia, making sexually suggestive comments and innuendo, and suggesting she wear miniskirts to work. The initial charge also alleged that the church discharged her in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment by Jones. The Department found that substantial evidence existed to support Lockard's claims and filed complaints against Jones (case No. 3-10-5036) and the church (case No. 3-10-0536) with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission).
¶ 3 The complaint to the Commission alleged four incidents of sexual harassment in 2003 and one in 2004, including that:
(1) Jones told Lockard that the dress code required her to wear miniskirts;
(2) Jones told Lockard God would not permit him to have an affair with any of the beautiful women he worked with;
(3) Jones made a sexual reference about a local man;
(4) Jones discussed extramarital affairs with Lockard;
(5) Jones massaged Lockard's shoulders without her permission in November 2004.
¶ 4 The complaint to the Commission also alleged that Jones was a member of the church's management, he sexually harassed Lockard, and that an ad hoc committee formed by the church to investigate Lockard's complaints of sexual harassment told Lockard she would likely lose her job if she continued to oppose Jones's sexual harassment. The complaint alleged it did ultimately discharge her for that reason. In August 2007 the Commission conducted a hearing on the charge before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
¶ 5 The church hired Lockard as its treasurer in January 2000. Jones became the church's pastor in August 2000 and was Lockard's supervisor. The hearing adduced evidence of comments concerning extramarital affairs in January 2001, that Jones asked Lockard to view a sexually explicit picture on his computer in September 2001, and that Jones made the comment concerning the office dress code in 2002. The ALJ heard testimony concerning references to oral sex that Jones made to another employee in spring 2001 and again in summer 2003. There was also testimony that Jones made other anatomical sexual references in the office.
¶ 6 In August 2003 Lockard complained to the church's board chairman, Brad Anderson, about Jones. Lockard specifically complained to Anderson about Jones's inappropriate jokes. Anderson confronted Jones. Jones denied making requests for oral sex but admitted that a casual atmosphere existed in the office. The hearing produced evidence that, after Lockard's complaint and Anderson's confronting of Jones in September 2003, Jones made a sexual reference about a member of the community. Then, in October 2003, he made a sexual innuendo with regard to a photograph of a man and a horse, made comments regarding extramarital affairs to Lockard, and displayed a sexually suggestive photograph on another employee's computer. Later in October 2003, another female employee submitted her resignation, and she and Lockard again met with Anderson. Both women informed Anderson that the office environment had not improved since Anderson spoke to Jones. They described Jones's sexual comments and requests for oral sex.
¶ 7 On November 4, 2003, Lockard was working at her desk and Jones began to rub her shoulders. She shrugged to remove Jones's hand and he stopped. Later in November, during its meeting, the church's pastoral relations committee discussed Jones's behavior. A church member informed the committee that the female employee who resigned did so because of Jones's sexual harassment. The committee discussed the casual atmosphere in the office. The meeting concluded with an admonishment to Jones that the casual atmosphere in the office had to stop. In January 2004, Barb Grant became chair of the church's board. She was informed of the aforementioned committee meeting and the prior complaints. Grant approached Lockard and asked whether Jones had shown any anger or engaged in any sexual harassment toward her. Lockard responded that no sexual harassment had occurred since the November 2003 pastoral committee meeting.
¶ 8 On April 7, 2004, Jones was present at a test of the church's new sound system. Jones wore a wireless microphone and told another member to speak into his cheek. Lockard interpreted the comments as referencing rubbing the other member's buttocks cheek. Lockard reported the incident to Grant and repeated her allegations of Jones's requests for oral sex and for an extramarital affair. Grant investigated the allegations but told Lockard that she could not find anyone to corroborate them. Grant met with the office staff and they discussed all of the allegations. Lockard explained that Jones's "cheeks" remark made her uncomfortable. Jones responded that she had misunderstood him. At the conclusion of that meeting, Jones informed Lockard that her job was not in jeopardy but would be if she did not bring any future concerns to him first.
¶ 9 On April 15, 2004, the church's board formed an ad hoc committee to investigate the complaints against Jones. There was testimony at the hearing before the ALJ that Jones made offensive or inappropriate remarks once or twice a week. There was also testimony that the committee met with Lockard. Lockard described the work environment, including Jones's temper, to the committee. She did not describe requests for oral sex during that meeting (because she felt she was not given an opportunity to do so). Grant asked Lockard if she could continue to work if Jones's conduct did not change. Grant rephrased the question to ask whether Lockard could work in what she perceived to be a sexually harassing and hostile environment. Lockard replied she did not know.
¶ 10 On April 20, 2004, the committee met. Grant did not report to the committee another former employee's statement to her in the course of her own investigation that Jones had requested oral sex from her and Lockard. That employee, Sue Weaver, resigned in September 2001. Grant reported only that Weaver had found some of Jones's jokes to be inappropriate. The committee decided that Lockard had a malicious intent to undermine Jones and to make false statements. The committee recommended discharging Lockard. At a full meeting of the board, Grant again reported that she could only corroborate that Jones had made some inappropriate comments but not the cheek incident or Jones's temper. Jones stated that Lockard was not cooperative and that he could not get along with her. The board discussed Lockard's intent and concluded that Jones needed to be able to work in an environment where he could trust the staff. The board voted to discharge Lockard and informed her the following day. The board read Lockard a statement which characterized her complaints against Jones as false and destructive.
¶ 11 In September 2009, the ALJ found that certain events had occurred between January 2001 and October 2003, that in October 2003 Lockard had informed her employer about some of those events, and that the employer took certain actions. The ALJ found that additional events occurred after the employer took those actions, in November 2003 and on April 7, 2004. The ALJ specifically found, with regard to the timeliness of Lockard's allegations, that the November 2003 shoulder massage qualified as sexual harassment and that it occurred within the same period that Jones had subjected Lockard to a series of sexually tinged comments and photographs that were demeaning to women. Thus the ALJ found that the massage and Jones's conduct outside the 180-day filing window for complaints of sexual harassment were not qualitatively different. The ALJ also found in Lockard's favor on her complaint for retaliation. The ALJ noted that Lockard complained to the former board chair about Jones's behavior in August 2003 and October 2003 and asked the new board chair to investigate. However, the new board chair failed to report allegations of requests for oral sex from two former employees.
¶ 12 The ALJ issued a recommended decision and order recommending that petitioners be found liable on both charges and that Lockard be awarded damages. Lockard filed a motion for attorney fees and costs. The ALJ also recommended awarding Lockard attorney fees and costs. Petitioners filed exceptions with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission). In May 2010, the Commission ...