Two employees — one former, the other current — are suing Oak Park Village Hall, claiming they were discriminated against. One claims the discrimination was based on religion, the other on sexuality.
Both complaints were filed Nov. 12 in the law division of the Cook County Circuit Court, and both cases were previously dismissed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
Maintenance man Michael Aguayo alleges that, since November 2007, he has been harassed by other village employees for being homosexual. Others would refer to things that didn't work as "being gay" and told Aguayo to "come outside and settle this like men," according to the complaint.
Aguayo, 45 and a Lombard resident, claims the village failed to take action when the alleged harassment took place, and that he later received "unfounded" write ups and verbal reprimands. He also alleges that he lost duties and was later demoted.
The continued harassment caused Aguayo to suffer "extreme mental anguish" and "painful embarrassment," according to the complaint.
Aguayo is asking a judge to grant him an injunction against the village to stop the harassment, along with lost pay, medical expenses, attorney fees and other damages.
Reached last week, Aguayo said the harassment is still taking place at village hall. He was originally hired in May 2001, but says that he didn't start getting harassed until November 2007, when Aguayo made Public Works Director John Wielebnicki aware of his sexuality. He says the main reason for filing the suit was to stop the alleged harassment.
"If it wasn't for my union, I would have quit a long time ago and not put myself through the anguish of working at this place and having nobody do anything to protect me," Aguayo said, declining to say how his union helped him.
In the other complaint, former village employee Shawnya Robinson alleges that she was wrongfully terminated by the village because of her religion.
Robinson, a Jehovah's Witness, was hired as a representative in the village's community relations department in February 2005. But in September 2009, her position was eliminated as part of budget cuts.
She was then shifted into a position in the village clerk's office. At the time, Robinson allegedly told the village clerk that she could not perform some of her duties because of her religion — specifically registering either voters or domestic partners.
Village Clerk Teresa Powell allegedly agreed to exempt Robinson from those duties. But just three days after she started, the deputy village clerk allegedly told Robinson that her exemption was causing "low morale" among workers in the clerk's office. The village then allegedly fired Robinson later that day because of the accommodation.
Robinson is asking that she be reinstated to her position, or be paid for the lost work, and that she also be paid attorney fees and other damages. Powell claims that Robinson quit and was in fact not fired.
"She's a lovely person and I'm sorry things have come to this pass." Powell said.
Village Attorney Ray Heise said Monday that the village does not comment on personnel-related matters. In the rulings from the Department of Human Rights, the village denied claims made in both suits. The department dismissed both claims based on a lack of substantial evidence.
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