There are new developments in the case of Tommy Bennett, the gay former staffer in Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition who filed a stunning complaint last year alleging anti-gay discrimination and sexual harassment. Bennett later filed a lawsuit alleging similar claims.
The lawsuit and investigation continues, and, a settlement has been rejected in the case, an attorney tells Chicago's Windy City Times. Another former employee's harassment lawsuit filed against Rainbow PUSH reportedly supports some of Bennett's claims.
The initial charge filed with the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations was revealed last April. Bennett claimed that he experienced ongoing harassment soon after he was hired in 2007. Bennett says that he was later demoted to Jackson's travel assistant, asked to escort women to Jackson's room and "clean up after sexual intercourse", and that the reverend demanded oral sex.
Bennett's attorney, Thomas Leverso, told Windy City Times that rumors that the case had been settled are far from true—but did say his client received an offer. "In terms of disclosure about the amount of money, I can't tell you the figure," he said. "However, I can tell you that it was so far below any of our demands that it was insulting. As to the process, the case is alive and well in Cook County [regarding] the IDHR [Illinois Department of Human Rights] claims. As for the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations [CCHR], they haven't communicated anything except that they're moving forward with the investigation."
Regarding the court case, Leverso said, "We're headed to a judgment quite soon because they're not even showing up to court."
Meanwhile, Candice Brown—another former PUSH employee—has filed three IDHR cases against Rainbow PUSH, Marshette Turner (with PUSH's Trade Bureau) and Chief of Staff John Mitchell, and one CCHR case against all the defendants together. Among other things, Brown alleges harassment.
At one point in the supplement to the complaints, Brown stated "how any time an employee 'was not liked' by the Rainbow PUSH any longer, she was to terminate the employee and draft a letter" that cited "either 'economic downturn' or 'lack of funding' as the reason for the termination, despite funding either remaining constant or increasing during the times of the terminations." She also said she "drafted one such letter to a Mr. Tommy Bennett, stating inter alia lack of funding as [the] reason for layoff."
Leverso also represents Brown. Bennett is seeking at least $98,300 in lost income and benefits and "$350,000 for emotional distress and other damages."
Bennett was a member of President Obama's LGBT leadership council. Bennett was also known for being a gay-themed gossip personality on The Tom Joyner Morning Show.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH have denied the allegations. Jackson and PUSH have a long record of support for LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues, dating back to Jackson's presidential bids in the 1980s. This is believed to be the first time he has been accused of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Read the full story at the Windy City TImes ...
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