Joe Ricketts Accused of Sexual Harassment Retaliation

Two Nebraska women are suing Chicago Cubs owner and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and his Omaha-based charity, the Opportunity Education Foundation, on the grounds of harassment retaliation.

Patricia Davis and Patricia Duncan both worked at the Opportunity Education Foundation, an organization owned by Ricketts which provides educational opportunities to children in developing countries, and both women had made complaints of sexual harassment coming from the charity's chief operating officer.

According to the lawsuit, the COO allegedly made inappropriate remarks to both women about their physical appearance. These remarks included comments about Davis' legs and cleavage and an occasion where the COO placed a golf ball in Duncan's Office and said, "I'm trying to get into your hole."

The COO was fired after the women filed a complaint to the out-of-house human resources firm, but he was later rehired to work out of office just days after being let go.

The lawsuit states that Ricketts told Duncan within two weeks of the complaint that her part-time services were no longer needed and that the foundation would notify her "when work picked up." Ricketts and his attorney had allegedly asked Duncan about her sexual harassment claim and told her that she "probably misunderstood the comment."

Davis was excluded from meetings and duties essential to her job over the two months following her complaint, the lawsuit said. Ricketts allegedly told Davis she would need to get on better terms with the COO, her boss, and both parties were put on administrative leave and eventually fired in Dec. 2009.

The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission sees reasonable cause for the allegations of harassment retaliation, noting that Davis and the COO were fired at the same time, but the COO was temporarily rehired "as a contract employee."

The NEOC has not advised the women to pursue sexual harassment charges, however, because it was unclear whether the disputed comments "were sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect or alter a term, condition, or privilege of employment," according to an ESPN report.   

Ricketts' attorney has called the lawsuit and its allegations meritless.    

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