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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Boss of the Week

CHICAGO (CN) - A woman claims in court that her company's vice president was an "offensive" harasser, who pulled her skirt up, asked her the color of her underwear and described himself as a "male whore," and that she was fired for complaining.

Patrice DeMars-Evans sued Mikron Digital Imaging-Midwest and its vice president and part owner, Michael Harvey, in Cook County Court.

DeMars-Evans, 52, worked as an account manager from Aril 2007 until she was fired on June 1, 2011. Mikron sells X-ray equipment. DeMars-Evans says she reported to Harvey and to company president Donald Dotson, who is not a party to the complaint. The only defendants are the company and Harvey.

"Plaintiff sold X-ray equipment to hospitals throughout Illinois. Throughout her employment, she was the top salesperson at Mikron. At all relevant times, her job performance met and exceeded her employer's legitimate expectations," DeMars-Evans says in the complaint.

The complaint states: "After she began her employment, Mr. Harvey would tell her about his sex life, describing himself as a 'male whore' and telling her that every day he fights to control himself around women."

"Mr. Harvey would regularly make offensive, unsolicited remarks about women's breasts and buttocks.

"Mr. Harvey would regularly attempt to engage plaintiff in unwelcome and offensive conversations about her own sex life, asking such questions as, 'What is the greatest number of orgasms you have had at one time?'

"At one point during her employment, Dan Shooshanian, a service manager, placed a sign next to plaintiff's office that said 'Naked girls only allowed.' Mr. Dotson saw the sign and laughed and left it there for over a month. At the time, plaintiff was the only female employee in the office."

After attending an industry event at the Chicago Field Museum, "Mr. Harvey and plaintiff shared a taxi back to the hotel following the Field Museum event. In the cab, Mr. Harvey pulled plaintiff's skirt up and asked what color underwear she was wearing," the complaint states.

"Upon their return to the hotel, Mr. Harvey told plaintiff that he had conducted a 'non-scientific' study on 'breast sensitivity in women with small breasts' and how he found, after much personal research, that small-breasted women had much greater sensitivity than their larger-breasted counterparts.

"After the Field Museum gala, Mr. Harvey would ask plaintiff what color today, referring to plaintiff's underwear, whenever he encountered her.

"In 2010, Mr. Harvey attended a client meeting at St. Alexius Hospital with plaintiff. While they were in the cafeteria, he made offensive remarks about plaintiff's buttocks.

"In 2010, Mr. Harvey asked plaintiff if she would ever consider having an affair. Upon information and belief, Mr. Harvey wanted to initiate an affair with plaintiff."

DeMars-Evans adds: "Michael Sinelli, the current COO of Mikron, would regularly tell plaintiff that the only reason the other female sales executive, Julie Kendall, received business was because she would 'shake her big tits in front of everyone' and say 'hi, I'm Julie.' Mr. Sinelli would then imitate a woman shaking her breasts."

DeMars-Evans claims that in May 2011 the company president accompanied her on a service call to St. Alexius hospital.

"After the service call, plaintiff received a complaint from the customer that Mr. Dotson acted like a 'pervert' around the female technicians and that they felt uncomfortable around him for quite some time and did not want him to return," the complaint states.

"On or about May 16, 2011, plaintiff informed Mr. Harvey about the complaint, and shared that she had the same experience. In response, Mr. Harvey asked, 'Are you sure she wasn't talking about me?'

"Approximately two days before she was fired, Mr. Dotson called plaintiff and interrogated her about the 'personal attack' levied against him by plaintiff and the customer at St. Alexius Hospital. Plaintiff explained what the customer had said, and again reported her own complaint of discrimination. Mr. Dotson told plaintiff that he would get to the bottom of this and that he knew she was involved.

"The close temporal proximity between Ms. DeMars' internal report of harassment, and her termination - which occurred just days later - demonstrates that defendants retaliated against Mr. DeMars for her complaint and that she was subject to unlawful discrimination," the complaint states.

DeMars-Evans seeks back pay and benefits and at least $200,000 in damages for sexual harassment, retaliation, and pain and suffering.

She is represented by Carrie Herschman with Gordon & Karr.

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