A federal jury on Thursday awarded a former Madison County Treasurer’s Office employee $450,000 in damages in an employment discrimination lawsuit against the county and Treasurer Kurt Prenzler.
In the Dec. 3, 2014, lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, former Comptroller Linda Dunnagan states she was hospitalized with a life-threatening illness in June 2012 and experienced impairment that qualified as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She returned to work in August 2012 and was told her duties were being transferred to a less-experienced employee and that she would be required to train the employee.
The lawsuit states Dunnagan self-administered an intravenous drip hooked to her arm while she was at work. Prenzler audibly challenged her receiving the treatment at work.
After she was readmitted to the hospital in November 2012, Prenzler asked Dunnagan to retire and seek disability benefits. She refused and said she wanted to continue working. On Jan. 3, 2013, she received a letter indicating the comptroller’s position was being eliminated. Prenzler said the position was being eliminated to reduce expenditures in the Treasurer’s Office.
“The real reason defendants eliminated the comptroller position was to attempt to create a legal justification for the illegal and unlawful termination of plaintiff’s employment,” the lawsuit states.
The employee Dunnagan trained now performs the duties of the comptroller, the lawsuit states.
In addition to the $450,000 in compensatory damages, the county will be required to pay for Dunnagan's legal expenses and lost wages.
According to media reports, Prenzler said he plans to appeal the verdict and said eliminating the comptroller position was strictly a financial decision to rein in his office’s budget.