By Anna Lothson
A settlement hearing has been scheduled for September in the case involving two women who are suing the Village of Oak Park for sexual harassment, discrimination and unlawful retaliation.
The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 5, 2011, by former village employees Lena Wert and Annie Hayes, asks for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees. The plaintiffs claim that Robert Anderson, their former boss in the village's adjudication department, sexually harassed them for months, eventually leading to their resignations.
According to the Dec. 5 court documents, the suit alleges that Anderson "abused, harassed and belittled" the women, beginning shortly after he was hired in February 2010. They allege that he would stare at their breasts and buttocks, among other inappropriate actions. The women, who called the work environment "hostile," both resigned in October 2010.
A June 28 court filing from the women's attorney, James Roche, details the reason for the settlement offer. Roche said he and the village have been "working diligently" to bring forward documents in question, which total more than 60,000 pages. The plaintiffs, he wrote, anticipate they'll need at least 15 depositions.
"The value and productivity of any settlement discussion would be greatly diminished if the parties had nearly completed all fact discovery and incurred the great costs associated with same."
The case was recently assigned to Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier for the possible settlement. Schenkier has set the settlement conference in his chambers for Sept. 19.
To avoid incurring more expenses from taking sworn depositions from witnesses, Roche filed a motion that all fact discovery be halted until the settlement conference has been held.
"Recently, [we] made a very reasonable settlement demand. This reasonable demand was in part based on the fact that [we] have yet to incur the expense related to taking depositions," said Roche, according to documents filed on June 28.
Roche is one of three attorneys representing Wert and Hayes. The village is being represented by the Chicago-based firm of Franczek Radelet. A settlement letter must be served to the village's attorneys by Aug. 1, and they have until Sept. 6 to return a formal settlement letter to the plaintiffs' attorneys.
No specific dollar amount was stated by the attorneys, but online court records show the plaintiffs are seeking $25,000.
Roche's motion to place a hold on fact discovery was granted, but if a settlement is not reached on Sept. 19 there will be an expedited discovery at 9:15 a.m. the following morning.