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Judgment rendered in Park District discrimination case
by Matt Simonette
2019-04-24

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After years of litigation, a Chicago woman is back to work at the Chicago Park District ( CPD ) after suing in federal court for wrongful termination on the basis of anti-Latinx bias, and a judgment determining lost wages and damages has been issued.

Lydia Vega, who is lesbian, returned to her job as a CPD park supervisor last December, according to her attorney, Catherine Simmons Gill. Vega was terminated in Sept. 2012 for allegedly falsifying her time-sheets; a jury subsequently determined in 2017 that her termination was discriminatory. Vega and CPD have been in court for years trying to settle on the amounts that Vega is owed.

Judge Jorge Alonso of the U.S. District Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division ruled April 15 that Vega was to be paid about $561,000 in compensatory damages, back pay and taxes-related expenses. The Park District has 30 days to appeal the ruling; Gill said that legal fees have yet to be determined as well, and would likely entail another series of hearings. Vega's pension has been restored as well.

"If this continues—if they do appeal—there's going to be attorney's fees as long as we continue to prevail," Gill said. "They basically are going to make this into a nearly 10-year affair on the taxpayers' dollar. The taxpayers are paying the Park District. Taxpayers are paying the Park District's attorneys. Now taxpayers will pay us something."

Vega had no disciplinary actions against her during her CPD employment before the timesheet dispute between herself and district officials. She alleged that investigators following her during CPD's research of the falsification charges mocked her for appearing masculine, but charges of gender-based discrimination against her employers were dropped earlier in the case.

Gill said that returning to work was "strange" for Vega when she went back to CPD in December, but that her client loves the park she was assigned to."

"She's doing good," said Gill.


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