‘Swamp Donkey’ Taunt Presents Triable Claim | Courthouse News Service
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‘Swamp Donkey’ Taunt Presents Triable Claim

CHICAGO (CN) - A federal judge has advanced sexual harassment claims against correctional officers who allegedly called their female co-worker a "swamp donkey" and referred to women as "birthing chambers."

While working as a correctional officer at the Will County Adult Detention Facility from March 2006 to June 2007, Marlis O'Leary says she was subjected to repeated sexually harassment from six of her male fellow officers, who referred to her as "swamp donkey" behind her back.

Sgt. Luna, O'Leary's supervisor, allegedly asked her out on a date 15 times and made a bet with Officer Michael Harkins over who would be the first one to sleep with her. On one occasion he "placed a baton between his genitals and, while simulating a sexual act, made phallic rocking gestures before touching plaintiff's upper thigh."

Harkins incessantly requested sexual favors from her and boasted about the size of his penis, according to the complaint. He once told her "the only thing women are good for is to have sex with them before abandoning them." Harkins also insinuated that O'Leary could advance her career only by making herself "available."

O'Leary admittedly "forgave Harkins' sexual advances" and developed a friendly relationship with him. Though Harkins says she gave him two cards, one signed "your kitty" and the other signed "meow," O'Leary now denies that she gave the cards to Harkins. She claims she cannot remember the actual recipient.

Officer Chris Wilhelmi would allegedly ask O'Leary whether she was wearing a new bra and told her that he wanted to see her wearing only a bulletproof vest. He allegedly went to O'Leary's house unannounced and "put his hand on her leg and ran it up her thigh, in the presence of her son."

Officer Gabriel Alvarado repeatedly asked her for sexual favors and asked her "whether she spat or swallowed," according to the complaint. He allegedly advised O'Leary to "forget what people think, do that stuff before she got married and have sex with as many people as possible." He also allegedly told her that women were "birthing chambers."

Officer Tomalieh allegedly made gestures as if O'Leary was having sex and told her that she was "fuckable." On one occasion, he went to her home unannounced and O'Leary "helped him cover a hickey on his neck because she knew he was married."

Officer Ron Adams told her he had an open marriage and asked her if she 'liked to have sex or perform oral sex,'" according to the complaint.

U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras found that O'Leary's "testimony has provided sufficient evidence to create a question of fact as to whether the atmosphere at the ADF was permeated with incessant unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors."

He noted, however, that O'Leary's "admission of writing the two greeting cards containing expressions of love and intimacy but denying recollection of the name of the addressee are strongly suggestive of fabrications on her part."

"Plaintiff's psychiatrist does not even believe the plaintiff's claimed failure of recollection," Kocoras added Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Kocoras said a jury can make the final call about O'Leary's credibility.

O'Leary cannot proceed with retaliation and emotional distress claims. "General hostility and comments do not qualify as actionable adverse employment actions unless the hostility is severe and pervasive," the 44-page decision states.

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