Rev. Jackson denies allegations of discrimination

April 15, 2011 3:54:18 AM PDT
The Reverend Jesse Jackson is defending himself against sexual harassment and discrimination allegations by a former employee.

Tommy Bennett filed a complaint against Jackson last summer with the City of Chicago Human Relations Commission alleging the reason he was terminated was because he is gay.

Bennett had a full-time job working for Jackson's Rainbow PUSH coalition until he was let go in what the organization says was a budget reduction.

Both sides filed a response to the allegations.

In the complaint, Bennett describes numerous alleged instances of harassment and humiliation he suffered while working for Rainbow PUSH, an organization dedicated to working against discrimination and for equality. He describes one alleged incident during a planning meeting for a national convention: "Mr. Bennett requested a LGBT table and discussion. Mr. Bennett was told by Rev. Jackson that it was not part of the agenda. When Mr. Bennett questioned why not, Rev. Jackson cursed at Mr. Bennett in front of all of the staff. Rev. Jackson was visibly upset during the rest of the meeting."

Bennett says in the complaint that he worked for the Rainbow PUSH coalition for about two and a half years ending just before Christmas in 2009.

Bennett's attorney released a statement saying, "Tommy Bennett stands by all his allegations. Knowing all of the potential repercussions, Mr. Bennett would not have filed his claim against Reverend Jackson if he was not interested in bringing justice to the situation. Mr. Bennett has no doubt that a thorough investigation will substantiate his allegations and has the utmost faith in the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, its investigators, and the process. At this point, Rainbow PUSH can either dig-in its heels or stand on the side of civil rights and equal justice for all human beings by working with Mr. Bennett and the LGBT community."

A spokesperson said, "The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Rev. Jackson, Sr. unequivocally deny Bennett's false claims of harassment, retaliation and discrimination. We are fully cooperating with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and expect to be fully exonerated." The spokesperson also said "Rainbow PUSH does not condone or tolerate discrimination. His inflammatory allegations are an attempt to malign Reverend Jackson and the organization."

If the human rights commission rules in his favor, Bennett could be eligible for lost wages as well emotional distress and punitive damages. Rainbow PUSH could also be forced to pay a fine to the city.

Bennett's attorney told ABC7 only that his client stands by the allegations he has made against Rev. Jackson.