Mehri & Skalet is representing more than 500 victims of sexual harassment in a historic case in Illinois. A total of 547 women on the staff of Cook County Jail, Leighton Courthouse and Cook County Health have joined a lawsuit against Cook County and Sheriff Tom Dart after experiencing horrific sexual harassment while working for the county. This is believed to be the largest case of individual sexual harassment victims filed in US history.
The women endured working in a harmful environment, subject to masturbation attacks, indecent exposure, and threats of sexual violence. Management and supervisors at the Jail allowed this harassment to continue for years. The plaintiffs work a wide range of jobs at the Jail and adjoining Leighton Courthouse and Cook County Health facilities, including as correctional officers, courtroom deputies, social workers, law librarians, paramedics, nurses, therapists, and other health care employees.
Ellen Eardley, a partner at Mehri & Skalet, is one of the attorneys representing the women:
“Women who work at the Jail will not be silenced. They will not be stopped by the County’s procedural shenanigans. Today, women proved that even if the courthouse door is closed for the case to proceed as a class action, they will still rise up and advance their claims. This is one of those historic civil rights moments where people band together to make change. These women are saying enough is enough. They demand action.”
Our co-counsel includes the following Chicago firms: Willenson Law; Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym; Noelle Brennan & Associates; and Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin. Photo of Bonnie Parker, retired correctional officer, speaking at a press conference in May.
Earlier this summer, Mehri & Skalet and our co-counsel Klafter Lesser LLP published a report documenting the success of the Norflet
Progress Fund. The Fund is named after the lead plaintiff in a 2009 discrimination case, Ms. Merle Norflet, who alleged that John Hancock Life Insurance Company engaged indiscriminatory practices in the sale and marketing of life insurance policies to African American consumers for decades. We secured a $24 million settlement, a portion of which was distributed to class members who could be found. The balance, which amounted to approximately $16 million, was committed to the Norflet Progress Fund to be distributed to local nonprofits that benefit African American communities to redress the effects of systemic racial discrimination.
One of those nonprofits, the DC-based Saturday Environmental Academy, received special attention in the Washington Post. Theresa Vargas, a local DC columnist for the Post, profiled the nonprofit and interviewed M&S partner Cyrus Mehri on the significance of the Norflet Progress Fund:
“This case is a rare example of righting a historic wrong. As the country is trying to talk about restorative justice and how we right historic wrongs, I think this could be a model.”