Jury refutes state employee's sexual harassment claims

March 25, 2008 4:37:31 PM PDT
A federal jury has rejected sexual harassment claims made by a former state employee.Carlos Estes said he was fired after rebuffing the advances of his high-ranking boss at the Illinois Department of Human Services.

This verdict not only gets a bureaucrat off the hook, it also will save Illinois taxpayers money. The jury took about five hours to arrive at its decision that a DHS female boss did not sexually harass a male employee.

The now-37-year-old Estes would not speak to reporters after the verdict. His attorney, Dana Kurtz, blamed technical issues, saying the jury's decision did not necessarily mean the members did not believe her client.

"What it means is they did not find the elements of the law based upon how the facts were presented by both sides," said Kurtz. "I am still very proud of Carlos for speaking out about what happened to him and for telling the truth."

In 2003, Estes worked as a $70,000 a year chauffeur for then-53-year-old Teyonda Wertz, the chief of staff in the Illinois Department of Human Services. Estes alleged Wertz, wearing silk pajamas, tried to seduce him while the two shared a hotel room during a business trip to Springfield.

"The story he told and the details he gave of the alleged occurrence at the Drury Inn in May 2003 was inherently unbelievable," said Bill Anderson, attorney for state of Illinois

Estes says he was fired three weeks after the hotel incident, he says, not for misusing a state vehicle as charged, but for refusing the sexual advances of Wertz. On Tuesday afternoon, a DHS spokeswoman wrote, "We're pleased with the decision of the jury to see the truth in this case and exonerate Ms. Wertz and the Illinois Department of Human Services. We look forward to continuing to focus attention where it should be--on our clients and our overall social services mission."

Wertz still works for the state but was not in court for the verdict. One of her lawyers told her the good news by telephone.

"I think Ms. Wertz is very relieved and very happy that, as Bill said, she's been exonerated by this jury," said Susan Laing, attorney for State of Illinois.

Wertz testified during the trial that she and Estes shared the hotel room because all others in Springfield were booked the night of the incident.

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