Following harassment allegations, 2 former MJP employees receive cease-and-desist letter from Klein


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Fisk Hall, where the Medill School of Journalism, Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communication has offices and classrooms.

Mariana Alfaro, In Focus Editor

On Thursday, a day after 10 former Medill students and employees accused Medill Justice Project Director Alec Klein of bullying, verbal abuse and sexual harassment, two former Medill Justice Project employees received a cease-and-desist letter from Klein’s attorney.

Olivia Pera and Alison Flowers (Medill ’09), both former Medill Justice Project employees, signed the letter, published Wednesday, that accused Klein of sexual advances and verbal abuse in the workplace. On Wednesday, Klein said he “categorically” denied all allegations in the letter and that he would pursue legal action.

“This letter is obviously a threat, and it’s a way to continue to intimidate me as a journalist and as a woman,” Flowers said. “I will not be silenced.”

Klein’s lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg, told The Daily in a statement that Klein “denies the allegations that are being made … (and) intends to respect the confidentiality and privacy of Northwestern University and its internal process.”

“It is unfortunate that these allegations are being made in a rush to judgment, denying Mr. Klein of due process,” Miltenberg said. “We are confident that upon review, the allegations will be determined to have been unfounded.”

University spokesperson Al Cubbage sent a statement saying Northwestern will investigate the new allegations “promptly and thoroughly,” but declined to comment on previous investigations. Klein took a leave of absence from Northwestern on Thursday until the University’s investigation is complete.

In 2015, Pera received an $8,000 payment from Northwestern after she filed a complaint to the Illinois Human Rights Commission alleging that Klein sexually harassed her. The cease-and-desist letter demands that Pera stop discussing her interactions with Klein.

According to documents reviewed by The Daily, Pera starting working for the Medill Justice Project in fall 2014. In September 2015, she signed a nondisclosure agreement with Northwestern and received $8,000 after filing the Human Rights Commission complaint in July.

Michael Theodore, a spokesperson for the agency, confirmed to The Daily that two charges were filed — one against Klein and one against Northwestern.

Pera told The Daily that, prior to hiring her, Klein took her out for drinks in an Evanston restaurant. Pera said that, at the end of the night, Klein attempted to kiss her in a car. After being hired, she said, the Klein harassed and bullied her, causing her to feel miserable at work. Pera also said Klein made her feel like she could lose her job at any time.

Pera said that after she brought her claims and evidence to the University, they denied all of her claims.

In emails reviewed by The Daily, a Northwestern Title IX investigator told Pera they had reviewed testimony and available evidence and concluded they had “concerns about (her) credibility.”

Pera said she was supposed to work for the Justice Project from September 2014 to September 2015, but left in April. She made a list of allegations against Klein, including abusive language in the workplace and sexual advances, which, according to documents reviewed by The Daily, she sent to three separate Northwestern offices — Human Resources, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office.

According to the emails, a Title IX investigator responded asking if she would like to meet in person. The Human Resources office and a representative of the Title IX office did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

In the Illinois Human Rights Commission complaint, filed under the basis of sexual harassment, Pera alleged that Klein told her “he was in conflict about hiring (her) because he liked the way (she) dressed and that (she) was beautiful.” Pera also alleged Klein asked her if she was a stripper and talked to her openly about his sex life.

Pera said a mediator assigned to the case coordinated an agreement between Pera, Northwestern and Klein.

Pera said she sought retribution of the salary she lost by leaving Northwestern six months before her contract ended, but instead received $8,000 from the University — just over a third of what she would have earned.

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Twitter: @marianaa_alfaro