Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Madison County and Gibbons must defend retaliation lawsuit, judge rules

By Record News | Aug 2, 2016

BENTON – Madison County government and state’s attorney Tom Gibbons must both defend a retaliation suit of former secretary Andrew Kane, U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert ruled on July 26. 

He denied a motion to dismiss Kane’s claim against the county, finding Kane sufficiently pleaded the claim. 

He rejected the county’s argument that Kane worked solely for Gibbons. 

“The complaint clearly indicates that Kane believes the county was one of his employers and that he believes the county is therefore liable for the discrimination and retaliation he suffered on the job,” he wrote. 

“Generally, employment is a common sense concept that needs no detailed factual allegations to put a defendant on notice of the alleged employment relationship and its role in the plaintiff’s asserted right to relief,” he wrote. 

Kane was hired in 2010, and fired in 2012 on charges that he threatened blackmail and exhibited racism. 

He complained to the Illinois Human Rights Commission, which issued a notice of substantial evidence in his favor.

He won reinstatement in arbitration, but Gibbons didn’t take him back. 

He sued Gibbons and the county in circuit court, and Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder ordered reinstatement in 2013. 

Gibbons complied, but Kane later resigned. 

Kane sued Gibbons and the county in federal court this February, claiming conditions at work constituted retaliation for winning in Crowder’s court. 

His lawyers, William Buchanan and Lee Barron of Alton, claimed Gibbons and the county treated him in a demeaning, insulting and disparaging manner. 

They claimed that Gibbons assigned Kane to manual labor at an isolated location, and that he barred Kane from appearing at his office. 

Gibbons retained attorney John Gilbert of Edwardsville, who answered by arguing that Gibbons reinstated Kane to a position consistent with his classification. 

Attorney Gilbert wrote that the position was not demeaning and the assignment did not constitute an adverse action under the Civil Rights Act. 

Attorney Gilbert filed no answer to the claim against the county, arguing that Judge Gilbert should dismiss it because Kane didn’t work for the county. 

Judge Gilbert ruled that Kane’s complaint satisfied the requirements for pleading, but he left the question of employment open for the summary judgment stage. 

“Until that stage, it is sufficient that the county be able to glean from the complaint that Kane believes it employed him and that it was therefore responsible for improper employment actions taken against them,” Judge Gilbert wrote.

Gilbert has set trial next May.

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