Attorneys for Madison County and Sheriff Robert Hertz argue that they are the wrong defendants in a sexual harassment suit brought by a former Sheriff's Department employee.
Hertz and the County on June 16 filed a partial motion to dismiss a suit brought by Jaimie Linton.
Linton sued in federal court last November seeking $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages claiming she was subjected to a hostile work environment and that she suffered intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In the two-count suit, she alleges Hertz engaged in a pattern of abusive, harassing and “totally inappropriate” workplace behavior towards her “because she never accepted his inappropriate and unsolicited romantic advances in the work place and/or in her offwork hours.”
Linton is represented by Eric Rhein of Belleville.
The defendants state that damages sought for sexual harassment/hostile work environment may only be brought against an employing entity and that neither Hertz nor Madison County employed Linton. They say that the Sheriff's Office is the only entity from which Linton may seek relief.
Represented by John Gilbert and Narcisa Symank of Sandberg Phoenix and von Gontard, the defendants also argue that government agencies and its officers are immune from punitive damages.
They say Linton's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress - aimed only at Hertz - should be dismissed because it is barred by the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmenal Tort Immunity Act.
In addition, Gilbert and Symank say that even assuming Hertz was not immune from liability, "which Defendants vehemently deny," Linton fails to state a claim.
"To state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must show that 1) the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; 2) the defendant acted with intent to cause or knew that there was a high probability that his conduct would cause severe emotional distress; and 3) the conduct in fact caused severe emotional distress," they wrote.
"Plaintiff's allegations simply do not rise anywhere even near the level of alleging 'truly extreme and outrageous' conduct."
Hertz and the Sheriff’s Department face another lawsuit brought last November by officer Eric Decker who claims Hertz conducted an unwarranted and unauthorized search of his phone records. Decker also says he was retaliated against for protesting the alleged harassment of Linton.
A docket entry following a May 30 status conference indicated that the defendants were unwilling to consider settlement "at this time."
The next status conference is set Aug. 29 before Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams.
Lee Barron of Alton represents Decker.
Gilbert and Symank also represent Hertz and the Sheriff's Department in Decker's case.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel presides over both cases.