An Oak Park man and former employee of District 97 has been in a dispute with the district ever since filing a discrimination complaint after he was fired from his job two years ago.

Patrick Sullivan was a custodian with D97’s Buildings and Grounds Department for 15 years, he said recently. In May 2010, he filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging the district subjected him to discrimination on the basis of race, disability and retaliation, according to a notice from the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Sullivan, who is white, said his black supervisor would sneak up behind him while he was working alone at night and intentionally intimidate him. Even though Sullivan was working, the man would ask what he was doing and “eyeball him,” Sullivan said. The supervisor would also transfer him unexpectedly to assignments with larger workloads and write him up repeatedly with no explanation. He eventually recommended Sullivan’s firing to human resources.

Sullivan said the situation got progressively worse in the 13 years the supervisor held the job. The supervisor displayed that “pattern” behavior to white employees, Sullivan said. An attempt to bring his complaints to the Human Resources Department at D97 before he was fired was met with no response.

Sullivan added he was getting treatment for a back injury at the time and had to file for the Family and Medical Leave Act. Human resources told him he wouldn’t qualify. The district later said he could only get his personnel file through the court.

D97 said in a statement that they have filed suit against Sullivan for breach of contract because he violated an Aug. 2011 settlement agreement by continuing to pursue his claim.

In November 2010, the EEOC issued Sullivan a dismissal, saying it was “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes,” the Human Rights Commission notice said. The Department of Human Rights reached the same findings in May 2011.

Sullivan requested a review with the Human Rights Commission that August. In October, the department recommended that the commission enter an order vacating the dismissal, and the charge was reinstated.

A fact-finding conference will be held this week at the department.

“I’d like to get the job that I was cheated out of back,” Sullivan said.

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