Two female employees are suing the Bloomington-Normal Public Transportation System for $250 million because their former boss allegedly harassed them — touching them, making gross gestures, and in one woman's case, talking about her husband's sperm.
According to court documents, plaintiffs Angela Lancaster and Patricia Tilton were employees of the BNPTS, which serves the cities of Bloomington and Normal as well as Illinois State University; one of their coworkers was a woman named Melanie Overend. In 2010, their boss Jeff Logan allegedly engaged in a variety of icky conduct. Their allegations against him include:
- He called women, especially ISU students, "skirts."
- He openly ogled women, saying things like "oh hello there" and "hello mama."
- He blamed a female employee's behavior on "that time of month."
- In a meeting, he asked a female employee to close her eyes, then made "an obscene sexual gesture" at a male employee.
- He rubbed Lancaster's arms repeatedly, and touched her lower back in a way that made her uncomfortable.
On October 15, 2010, Overend told Logan she was expecting a child and she needed to be careful lifting things during her pregnancy. Logan interrupted Overend, and stated he knew that she was expecting. When Overend asked how, Logan responded, "I have my ways". Later Logan asked about Overend's children. Overend responded that she had two sons, and Logan stated "your husband must shoot boys".
In a November 2010 letter to the BNPTS Board of Trustees, Tilton wrote that "this conduct has made all the female employees at the BNPTS afraid to be around [Logan] alone for any length of period of time." She and Lancaster also filed discrimination charges with the Illinois Dept. of Human Rights. To their credit, BNPTS fired Logan. But Lancaster and Tilton's supervisor David Anderson allegedly kept pressuring them to drop the discrimination charges — and, when they were offered a "small settlement," to take it. I talked to their lawyer, Richard Steagall, who said they suffered significant mental distress as a result of the pressure and harassment. He also said that Lancaster had to seek mental health treatment.
It's unclear if Lancaster and Tilton will actually get $250 million. Steagall told me he hadn't had a chance to sit down with the opposition yet, but he thought it was likely they'd try to settle out of court. A representative for the BNPTS referred me to their law firm, which hasn't yet commented. Steagall did praise the BNPTS for firing Logan and for not retaliating against Tilton and Lancaster. Still, the lawsuit reveals what can happen to companies that let their employees make creepy sperm jokes and then discourage people from complaining.
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