Legal Trends Newsletter – October 2012

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Legal Trends Highlights Lawsuits Against the Archdiocese of Chicago and Rogers Auto Group.

In this issue of Legal Trends, we discuss two significant lawsuits that the Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander recently filed. The first involves the Archdiocese of Chicago for priest sexual abuse claims. The latter suit was filed against the Rogers Auto Group for allegedly maintaining a racially hostile work environment.

Tort Law

Hollander Law Offices Files Suit Alleging Two Minor Boys Sexually Abused by Father Daniel McCormack.

On August 1, 2012, The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Chicago in the Circuit Court of Cook County, on behalf of two men, known publicly only as John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2, who claim that they were sexually abused as minors by Father Daniel McCormack.

Ordained in 1994, Daniel McCormack was considered a rising star within the Catholic Church. Initially, he was assigned to St. Ailbe in the Calumet Heights neighborhood as Associate Pastor. In October, 1999, McCormack was Sacramental Minister at Holy Family. While there, an allegation of sexual abuse arose against him involving a 4th grade boy. Subsequently, in 2000, the Archdiocese assigned McCormack to St. Agatha on the south side, where he was the Pastor for six years.

In August, 2005, a mother claimed that McCormack sexually abused her 8 year old son on two occasions. On August 30, 2005, McCormack was arrested, but not formally charged. The Archdiocese told McCormack that he was not to be alone with children and chose a priest to monitor his activities. When the monitor was out of town, McCormack took three boys on a shopping trip to Minnesota. Later that year during Christmas, when the monitor was out of town, McCormack allegedly abused another boy.

On January 20, 2006, McCormack was rearrested. In July, 2007, McCormack pled guilty to sexually abusing five boys. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Since that time, a number of civil lawsuits have been filed against the Archdiocese, resulting in multiple multi-million dollar settlements. One victim reached a settlement with the Archdiocese last August for $3.2 million.

The John Doe cases have been consolidated for discovery purposes with a number of similar claims against the Archdiocese involving other victims. The cases, however, will be tried separately.

According to the allegations of the John Does’ lawsuit, when McCormack was at the seminary, seminarian officials knew that McCormack had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor boy in Mexico. The Plaintiffs further alleged that the Archdiocese failed to report the allegations of the 1999 Holy Family incident to DCFS.

Additionally, according to the suit, between September, 2000 and May, 2001, while McCormack was pastor at St. Agatha’s, McCormack sexually abused a number of minor boys.

In November, 2004, John Doe No. 1 was a minor who participated in St. Agatha’s Family Empowerment Program, known as SAFE. During that time, John Doe No. 1 claims that McCormack sexually abused him. Around the same time, John Doe No. 2 participated in the James Weldon Johnson Elementary School Lighthouse Program. He contends that while on his way home on several occasions, McCormack requested that John Doe No. 2 come into the rectory. The Plaintiff claims that McCormack sexually assaulted him during these events.

We anticipate that the litigation will take approximately two years to progress through the Circuit Court.

Civil Rights

Hollander Law Offices Files Multi-Plaintiff Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit Against Rogers Auto Group.

According to five former and one current Sales Representative of Rogers Auto Group, a Bronzeville automobile dealership, working there was no walk in the park.

The law firm represents Jermaine Thomas, Fred Redeaux, Abdulaziz Tayeh, Darius Fox, Charles Barnett, and Dion Turner. Tayeh is a Muslim and the other Plaintiffs are African American. The Plaintiffs allege that they were subjected to a racially hostile work environment by management.

The Plaintiffs allege that they were subjected to racial slurs such as “boy,” “porch monkey,” “baboon,” “coon” and were also referred to by use of the ‘N’ word. Tayeh contends that he was subjected to references associating him with Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and was labelled as a terrorist.

On June 18, 2012, The Hollander Law Offices sent letters to the dealership’s owner, advising him that Tayeh had a pending charge with the EEOC. The law firm also requested Tayeh’s personnel file as well as those for the other Plaintiffs. After receiving the letters, the dealership then promptly terminated Fox’s and Thomas’ employment.

On August 9, 2012, The Hollander Law Offices filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rogers Auto Group alleging that it maintained a racially hostile work environment. Claims of retaliation were also brought on Thomas’ and Fox’s behalf. After being sued, the dealership then terminated Tayeh’s employment. The lawsuit has since been amended to include a claim of retaliation on Tayeh’s behalf.

Most recently, Turner and Redeaux quit because of the hostile work environment, leaving Barnett as the sole remaining Sales Representative of the group.

When the suit was filed, CBS News Chicago covered the story. During the news conference, Tayeh also said that he was called Sadam Hussein. He said that his goal in bringing this lawsuit was to “open their eyes, that you can’t treat people this way.”

Rogers Auto Group has filed its formal Answer to the lawsuit, generally denying the allegations.

Under federal law, there is a cap on a Plaintiff’s damages for most discrimination claims, limiting them to a maximum recovery of $300,000 for non-economic losses against only the largest employer. For race claims, however, there is no statutory cap, meaning that the dealership could be exposed to a far greater sum than $300,000 per Plaintiff in this case.

There is no cap limiting the amount of backpay that a Plaintiff can recover following a claim of retaliatory discharge. Additionally, should this case proceed to trial, and the Plaintiffs win, Rogers Auto Group will have to pay the Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.

In this particular case, the Defendant’s actions appear especially punitive in light of its actions once it was formally notified of the claims. In a recent case, Fry’s Electronics settled a retaliation lawsuit brought against it by the EEOC. It was alleged that Fry’s terminated an employee’s employment after the employee supported a co-worker’s discrimination case. Fry’s ended up paying out $2.3 million in that single Plaintiff retaliation case.

We expect that the lawsuit will take approximately two years to get to trial, and Legal Trends will keep you posted of further developments on the case.

Office News

On October 13, 2012, Eugene Hollander is scheduled to speak as a presenter on the topic of “Hot Evidentiary Issues in Employment Law” before Arizona’s State Bar Labor & Employment Section in Sedona, Arizona.