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The owner of the Tri Lakes Tavern in Whitley County has been accused of sexual harassment by a former bartender.

Bar owner faces harassment case

A bartender at the Tri Lakes Tavern in Whitley County will get her day in court after filing a complaint alleging she was sexually harassed by her boss throughout her employment.

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission has completed an investigation of the complaint, filed Sept. 9, and determined there is sufficient evidence to move forward, according to a statement released by the commission Feb. 17.

The matter will now be set for a public hearing before a commission administrative law judge.

Names of the bartender and bar owner were not included in the report released by the commission.

A witness backed up the employee’s allegations that the business owner made unwanted sexual advances, grabbed the woman’s buttocks and breasts on a daily basis, made lewd comments and fondled her in front of customers.

The owner denies the allegations, contending the woman was fired for stealing and had received a DWI, resulting in the suspension of her bartending license.

According to the state’s findings, there was sufficient evidence to support the complaint. In addition, the owner failed to provide evidence of the allegations of stealing or the suspension of the bartender’s liquor license.

“The issue before the Commission is whether the alleging party was subjected to unlawful harassment based on her sex,” said commission Deputy Director Akia Haynes. “Through our initial investigation, there is reason to believe this was the case. A public hearing before the Commission is necessary to determine whether a violation did, in fact, occur.”

Ultimately, nothing was done about the harassment and the complainant was terminated after she continued to complain about her treatment, according to the report.

Both the witness and the bartender reported the behavior to the owner’s spouse, who replied, “That is just him,” according to the commission.

The state’s finding of probable cause does not resolve the complaint but means there is sufficient evidence that the Indiana Civil Rights Laws may have been violated.

Involved parties could agree to have the case heard in the Whitley Circuit or Superior Court instead of by the commission but must be in agreement.

To prevail, the complainant must show that she was subjected to unwelcome sexual actions or comments based on her sex; the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create a hostile work environment; and that she made it known that the comments and behaviors were unwelcome; and that the respondent failed to take corrective action.