Lawsuit Claims Retaliation Against Whistleblower | WBEZ
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Lawsuit Claims Retaliation Against Whistleblower

A current employee for the City of Chicago is suing the city. She claims she was harassed after calling the Chicago's affirmative action program a "sham". She alleges the city has defrauded the federal government of millions of dollars by not complying with affirmative action and equal opportunity laws. For WBEZ, Dave Glowacz has the story. 

Check out links to Theresa Hill's lawsuit, and extended interviews at Dave Glowacz's Website.

The running joke in the 1999 movie Office Space is the “relocation” of an employee by the name of Milton.

Office Space: Umm, I'm going to need you to go ahead and move to the downstairs storage space to make room for some boxes and stuff…

That's what Theresa Hill says happened to her while working as an assistant commissioner at the City of Chicago Human Resources Department.

HILL: I've been keeping count; so I've been moved 16 times. I was told that I was relocated in an effort to silence me and to intimidate me all of my job duties were taken away from me.

Hill says that after she revealed in October of 2006 that the city wasn't complying with federal law, her bosses retaliated.

HILL: I began to do research and it took me to a window that was 15 to 20 years. It seemed that there was a period of non-compliance since the Harold Washington administration.

Hill claims that while the city of Chicago has, for many years, received federal funds for everything from Head Start to homeless shelters, it's failed to take the most basic steps of affirmative action and diversity.

The city department responsible for affirmative action and equal opportunity policy is the two-year-old office of compliance. Deputy Director Torrick Ward says that with the exception of large departments like police and fire, the city hasn't had a comprehensive diversity program in place.

WARD: We're trying the best we can to get this...ya know, to build up what we believe will be a very good, strong diversity program for the city.

Meanwhile, a half dozen security officers who work in the Department of Aviation have filed a discrimination suit. This is their attorney, Bryan Wood.

BRYAN WOOD: African-American aviation security officers are denied equal employment opportunities with respect to hiring, promotion, terms and conditions of well as retaliation against those who come forward with claims of, or complaints of, discrimination...compared to both Hispanic and Caucasion security officers, they are denied those opportunities.

Wood says that while a working affirmative action program wouldn't necessarily wipe out discrimination in city employment, it might have created enough awareness among managers to keep workers from having to file discrimination suits.

Theresa Hill alleges that city managers harassed her by barring her from weekly staff meetings. She says that they also tried to delete her e-mail account and openly criticized her in front of co-workers She says she reported these forms of retaliation to the office of the Inspector General--which she says has not, to this day, validated her complaints. A spokesman for the Inspector General would not comment.

Hill also made reports to the federally-appointed monitor who's charged with making sure the city eliminates favoritism and harassment in city employment. The monitor, Noelle Brennan, got Hill moved, temporarily, to a different department to protect her from retaliation. But, says Brennan, providiing such protection is hard

BRENNAN: Obviously, have a no-retaliation policy is a first step; and then enforce the policy. The problem with retaliation is that I think it can come in so many different forms that it's difficult to prove, in many instances.

An attorney for Theresa Hill says that the city will received formal notification of Hill's lawsuit this week.

The text has been updated to correct Theresa Hill's employment status with the City of Chicago. She is not a former employee.

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