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NIU Law School Dean Resigns over Sexual Harassment Claims

Posted by Athena M. Herman | Sep 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

The freedom from being sexually harassed in a workplace is a basic human right that is protected by state and federal law. Illinois has specific legislation, known as the Illinois Human Rights Act, that protects residents in the state from sexual harassment. However, this right is compromised far too often, considering that victims - both male and female - are sexually harassed on the job at staggering rates every single day. The majority of the time it goes unreported by victims due to a fear of retaliation or unwanted attention at work. In cases when sexual harassment is from higher management or people who have the fate of a victim's professional future in their hands, this sexual misconduct may go unreported out of fear that it will negatively impact the victim's career. It doesn't matter from whoever or in whatever form these inappropriate actions materialize, each individual has the constitutional right to stop this abusive behavior by filing a civil suit against an employer and/or employee for sexual harassment.

Two former employees at Northern Illinois University decided to stop the abuse in their workplace when they both filed a report against the now former College of Law Dean, Eric Dannenmaier, alleging several instances of sexual harassment. The women recalled in the detailed report that Dannenmaier repeatedly made unwanted sexually graphic comments toward them, coworkers and students. An investigation was conducted by the school immediately after it was informed of the misconduct, and the findings were alarming. After interviewing the two women, their counterparts and countless students, it turned out that the Dean had a well-documented history of displaying inappropriate behavior and using language of a sexual nature in the workplace. Both of the women claim that their desire to discontinue their employment at NIU was directly influenced by Dannenmaier's misconduct. One of the women, who along with her counterpart wishes to remain anonymous, claimed that she wasn't going to report the Dean's behavior until he made it very clear that the women who took her place would be subject to this abuse, too.

She claims that after he showed interest in a particular young female candidate, he began to ask irrelevant questions that revealed his intentions.

“He asked how old she was, he asked what she looked like, if I was Facebook friends with her if he could try and recognize her from any sort of summer picnic that we had right after graduation that he had attended,” she said. “When he figured out who she was and that she's a young, attractive female, he was like ‘oh, I should bring her in to interview,'” she recalled during a statement made during the investigation. “When he was going to replace me with other young women, we figured we would make the complaint to hopefully prevent him from continuing to do this.”

NIU officials have agreed to compensate the former Dean with approximately $95,000 to comply with an off-campus research assignment until the end of the year. Dannenmaier has since disputed the claims made by these women and argues that the University's processes were unfair. Instead of taking the compensation offered by the school, the dean has decided to resign. Whether or not legal action will be taken by the women has not yet been revealed.

Experienced Illinois Sexual Harassment Attorneys

If you have been forced to work in a hostile environment due to sexual harassment, you should consult an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable of Illinois' sexual misconduct laws. Contact Benassi & Benassi today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Athena M. Herman

Athena M. Herman practices in the areas of employment discrimination law, general employment law, and civil rights law...


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Practice Areas

Workers’ Compensation
Motor Vehicle Accident
Family Law/Dissolution
Personal Injury/Nursing Home Negligence/Medical Malpractice
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Practice Areas

Employment Discrimination
Retaliation claims and Whistleblower in the Workplace
Class Action Lawsuit and Multi-Plaintiff Cases
Civil Rights Litigation
Employment Law