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Cain accusers Bialek, Kraushaar planning joint news conference

By James V. Grimaldi,

Two women who allege they were sexually harassed by presidential hopeful Herman Cain have agreed to hold a joint news conference so they can air their stories together, the attorney for one of the women said.

Joel P. Bennett, who represents 55-year-old federal employee Karen Kraushaar, said he was planning the news conference with Gloria Allred, who represents Chicago homemaker Sharon Bialek, 50.

Details of the joint appearance have not been worked out. Kraushaar’s name became public on Tuesday, but she has not described her alleged harassment by Cain when she was working at the National Restaurant Association more than a decade ago. Bialek went public Monday, accusing Cain of groping her in a car after the two dined together in Washington in 1997. She was seeking job advice from Cain, who was head of the association at that time.

Cain forcefully denied the sexual harassment allegations at a news conference in Arizona on Tuesday.

Kraushaar left the restaurant association as part of a settlement of her harassment complaint, Bennett has said. She went on to work in communications for the federal government--first for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and most recently in the Treasury Department’s office of the inspector general.

On Wednesday, Kraushaar confirmed a report by the Associated Press that she also filed a workplace complaint at INS. The complaint asserted that she had not been allowed to work from home after a serious car accident, and also accused a manager of circulating a sexually charged joke about men and women via e-mail.

The e-mail complaint involved an explicit joke that has been widely circulated on the Internet, a former superviser told the AP on condition of anonymity. The joke lists reasons men and women are supposedly like computers, including that “in order to get men’s attention, you have to turn them on,” and that women are like computers because “even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for later retrieval.”

Kraushaar told the AP she considered her employment complaint “relatively minor” and she later dropped it.

“The concern was that there may have been discrimination on the job and that I was being treated unfairly,” Kraushaar said.

In an e-mail exchange with the Post, Kraushaar discussed the disparate treatment part of her complaint but did not address the e-mailed joke.

Kraushaar filed the complaint while working as an INS spokeswoman in late 2002 or early 2003, before the duties of the INS were moved from the Justice Department to the Treasury and new Homeland Security departments.

To settle the complaint, Kraushaar initially demanded thousands of dollars in payment, a reinstatement of leave she used after the accident earlier in 2002, promotion on the federal pay scale and a one-year fellowship to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a former supervisor told the AP.

Kraushaar told the Post she merely had requested the same treatment that had been allowed to a co-worker. One of Kraushaar’s former supervisors, Maria Cardona, confirmed to the Post that she had given another worker, who had chronic back problems, permission to “telework” from home.

Cardona was not the supervisor when Kraushaar requested the same arrangement and, once she was denied it, filed the complaint.

“A younger worker in my office had been allowed the privilege during an illness,” Kraushaar told The Washington Post. “Most federal agencies and workplaces, including the agency where I currently work, have come to recognize the value of allowing employees to telework as appropriate. There is a benefit to the worker and the environment as well.”

Cardona, now a political consultant and CNN commentator, told CNN Wednesday that Karen “is not a woman who files frivolous complaints. She is a strong-willed woman who knows what a professional environment needs to be.”

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