Madison County, prosecutor's office file answer to former employee's suit

A former assistant state’s attorney suing Madison County and its prosecutor’s office was “terminated on the basis of legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons,” the county defendants claim. In their Dec. 3 answer to Theresa Hagans' lawsuit, Madison County and its state’s attorney’s office also contends that Hagans lacks standing to seek injunctive relief because she failed to show she will suffer future discrimination by the defendants. Hagans, who worked as an assistant state’s attorney from April 1997 until July 2011, filed a two-count complaint Sept. 28 in federal court, claiming that her disability played “a motivating factor” in her termination. Her suit accuses the defendants of violating the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act (HRA) and interfering with her Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights. It seeks an award of more than $475,000 for lost wages, benefits and compensatory damages. Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas Gibbons told The Record shortly after the suit was filed that Hagans worked in the office’s Child Support Division and “did not live up to the high performance standards I have set for the office.” He also said that Hagans had been previously warned for “failing to perform the required duties of her position and then, in this instance, failed to prepare the file or show up in court on time for a trial in which child support was at stake.” She “also failed to call her supervisor, prior to trial, to let him know that she would not be there,” Gibbons added. That specific information, however, was not included in the county defendants’ answer to Hagans’ complaint. Instead, they denied some of the allegations lodged in the suit and offered two defenses. In addition to simply having “a valid non-pretextual reason” for terminating Hagans’ employment, the defendants assert that Hagans lacks standing to seek injunctive relief because she failed to show she will suffer future discrimination by them. The defendants also denied some of the allegations Hagans lodged in her complaint. Her suit states that she suffers from “fibromyalgia, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea,” a group of ailments and conditions that Hagans contends interferes with her “ability to move about, walk, sleep, work, travel and on occasion, concentrate.” While the defendants admit in their recently-filed answer that Hagans alleges she suffers from these conditions, they deny that her alleged ailments and conditions interfere with her abilities to move, walk, sleep, work, travel and concentrate. Hagans also claims in her complaint that administrators and managerial representatives of the defendants “at all relevant times knew and agreed that plaintiff was a person with a disability,” and in 2010 and 2011, granted requests for “the reasonable accommodation of a modified work schedule.” The defendants denied those claims entirely, although they admitted to having discussions with Hagans regarding her alleged disability. They also denied Hagans’ claim that in late 2010 and in 2011, they accommodated her with modified work schedule that her suit states came along with “a concomitant pro rata reduction in compensation paid.” In regards to the second count of Hagans’ complaint, the defendants claim they did not interfere with her FMLA rights. Attorneys Heidi L. Eckert and John L. Gilbert of Hinshaw & Culbertson in Belleville represent the county defendants. Alton attorney Lee Barron represents Hagans

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