A United States District Court has dismissed a lawsuit by Oak Park police officer Rasul Freelain, who claimed he had been sexually harassed by another police officer and then suffered retaliation from the village for complaining.
U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah issued the decision on Nov. 3, stating that Freelain and his lawyer failed to show that he had been retaliated against under provisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act [FMLA] and the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA].
Freelain, who had worked for the village for more than a decade, reported to the village’s Human Resources Department in May 2012 that he was sexually harassed by police officer Dina Vardal. He reported a few weeks later that while on duty Vardal shoved him, an action he believed “constituted felony criminal battery,” according to the court decision.
An investigation into the matter, which Freelain called “a sham,” by an outside agency hired by the village did not substantiate his claim of sexual harassment.
Freelain continues to be serve as an Oak Park police officer.
Freelain argued in the lawsuit that in an effort to punish him, the village: “misclassified his leave from work; prevented his opportunity of income and promotion; subjected him to investigations; refused his ‘light duty’ request; denied his scheduling requests; subjected him to a fitness for duty exam; delayed the grant of his Family and Medical Leave Act time; and refused to permit him to sign a criminal or internal complaint.”
Judge Shah determined, however, that each of the accusations did not “support a retaliation claim under the FMLA or the ADA because they are not adverse employment actions because there is no causal connection between the village’s decision to take these actions and Freelain’s protected activity.”
The decision also stated that Freelain and his attorneys did not rebut the village’s explanation for each of the actions it took that Freelain claimed were retaliatory.
“The sum of the parts here is an unfortunate series of administrative errors and delays in accounting for Freelain’s absences that caused a temporary loss of pay and forced Freelain to choose between losing more pay and abandoning his sick wife to return to work, but did not, in the end, affect Freelain’s job,” the judge wrote. “Freelain was frustrated and disappointed, but even if in combination the village’s actions were materially adverse, there is no evidence to tie these acts to Freelain’s protected activity.”
Rather than a suspicious series of “retaliatory behavior,” Shah determined that the “record shows a series of employer mistakes” that were ultimately corrected.