Ex-HR director sues Cook Clerk Yarbrough, says was fired for drawing attention to clerk’s office payroll problems


A former human resources director within the Cook County Clerk’s office has sued the clerk, Karen Yarbrough, and Yarbrough’s human resources chief, claiming she was wrongly fired for drawing attention to payroll problems in Yarbrough’s office, and then blocked from reinstatement by influential clerk’s office employees, who also were big donors to Yarbrough’s election campaign funds.

On April 25, plaintiff Yolanda McDonald filed suit in Chicago federal court. She is represented by attorney Gianna Scatchell, of the Disparti Law Group, of Chicago.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include Yarbrough and Lauren Raymond, who serves as Yarbrough’s human resources chief.

According to the complaint, McDonald had worked as an HR director for Yarbrough since 2017, first at the Cook County Recorder’s office, when Yarbrough served in that office, and then, since 2019 at the clerk’s office, after Yarbrough won that office, and the recorder’s office was subsumed by the clerk’s office.

The complaint asserts McDonald was repeatedly asked by others within Yarbrough’s office to look into a series of apparent problems within the clerk’s office’s payroll system.

According to the complaint, the problems allegedly included:

  • Employees not receiving paychecks;
  •  More than 100 former clerk’s office workers, including some who had died, still listed on the clerk’s office’s payroll;
  • Employees still receiving paychecks, even though they were supposedly on unpaid leave or were collecting short-term disability pensions;
  • Shorted pay for temporary election workers;
  • A purported “wage freeze” allegedly preventing workers from receiving their expected annual raises and cost of living pay increases;
  • Improper overtime pay calculations; and
  • Personal days being paid to workers who had resigned.

However, according to the complaint, McDonald had been “shut out from the payroll process,” despite her position within the clerk’s office, preventing her from examining the alleged discrepancies herself.

But when she attempted to raise the concerns up the chain of command, the complaint asserts Raymond allegedly took action against her, including alleged “sham” complaints about McDonald’s work performance, “interfering with her job duties” as a supervisor, and “giving her erroneous write-ups and suspensions and being forced to go for a mandatory (employee assistance program) with no grounds to do so,” among other alleged actions.

“On various dates, Plaintiff (McDonald) was subjected to disparaging comments made by Raymond, including that she did not want to ‘get caught with her panties down’ or telling McDonald that she acts like ‘[her] girlfriend that she could never make happy,’” the complaint alleged.

The complaint alleges the problems between McDonald and Raymond continued from March 2020 to December 2020, when she was purportedly fired by Yarbrough’s deputy clerk Cedric Giles.

McDonald alleges even the termination was carried out inappropriately, bypassing “Cook County’s progressive discipline standard by not taking certain corrective, disciplinary steps” before termination, and by not giving her a “pre-termination hearing.”

According to the complaint, McDonald was repeatedly told by Yarbrough throughout the alleged nine-month conflict that the clerk wished her to remain employed in the office. According to the complaint, Yarbrough further allegedly told McDonald after her termination that she wished to see McDonald reinstated.

However, the complaint alleges Yarbrough told McDonald in a private conversation that “it would be ‘political suicide’ for her to rehire McDonald,” without it “looking as if she was legally mandated to rehire McDonald.”

The complaint asserts Raymond and Giles were both “political donors” who had each “donated thousands of dollars to Yarbrough’s campaign.”

McDonald alleges Yarbrough’s actions in her case is part of a pattern of behavior by the clerk, who “has engaged in a policy, pattern, and practice of retaliating and condoning retaliation against employees or citizens who complain of protected class discrimination or report such misconduct.”

The complaint notes that Yarbrough faces ongoing lawsuits accusing her of political discrimination and retaliation against employees not politically loyal to her.

Further, the complaint accuses the defendants of age discrimination, alleging McDonald was fired in part because she was 50 years old at the time of termination; Raymond was 11 years younger than her; and McDonald was replaced by someone significantly younger.

McDonald’s complaint accuses Yarbrough and the other defendants of violating her First Amendment rights; illegal retaliation against a whistleblower; and discrimination under federal and state civil rights laws.

The complaint asks the court to order Yarbrough to reinstate McDonald within the clerk’s office, with the same seniority; award back pay and front pay, with interest; and additional unspecified damages for “humiliation, anguish, and emotional distress,” plus attorney fees.

Proft,Feeds,News,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago

via Cook County Record https://ift.tt/aCWfPGF

April 26, 2022 at 07:11PM

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