- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Lawyers for Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by an ex-employee alleging sexual harassment and forced political work on state time.

The motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago seeks to end the lawsuit by Edmund Michalowski, who worked for the former Republican candidate for governor for three years. He left in January and filed the lawsuit, just weeks before Rutherford finished last in a four-way GOP primary.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday. Michalowski’s lawyer did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Michalowski, who was deputy director of community affairs in Rutherford’s office, claims he was denied promised raises and a promotion and was berated for not performing political work. He contends he was sexually harassed by unwanted touching and comments from Rutherford on several occasions, including a night in April 2011 at Rutherford’s home when Michalowski claims the treasurer “grabbed at” his genitals.

The motion to dismiss, filed by private lawyers acting as special assistant attorneys general, says Michalowski’s free speech rights were not violated because he doesn’t allege he complained about the work, only that he was criticized for not doing it well.

It contends that Michalowski has not shown that Rutherford had a reason to discriminate against him because of his gender, that he was treated differently than other employees, or any pattern of discrimination in the one-term treasurer’s office.

And it says that Michalowski was not subject to a hostile work environment because if the alleged harassment occurred, the incidents were fairly isolated and not sufficient to support the claim.

Finally, it claims Rutherford should be covered by limited immunity afforded government officials when “the unlawfulness of an official’s conduct is not clearly established.”