CHICAGO (CN) – Six senior investigators in the Public Defenders Office claim in court that they were told “that if (they) had not joined the union they would not have been demoted.”
Lead plaintiff Joseph Tolomeo sued the Office of the Cook County Public Defender, Cook County Defender Abishi Cunningham Jr., and his chief of staff Mary Farmer, in Federal Court.
All six plaintiffs work as investigators with the Public Defender’s Office in the Chicago area.
In 2008, under the administration of Ed Burnette, they petitioned to be part of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union Local 1767. Burnette supported their efforts to join the union, and they were accepted in April 2009, the complaint states.
However, it continues: “Cunningham was sworn in as the Public Defender on April 1, 2009.
“In October 2011, plaintiffs received letters from Cunningham informing them that due to budgetary concerns, on December 1, 2011, the plaintiffs’ positions as Investigator IV Grade 20 Supervisors would be eliminated. Plaintiffs were told that they were eligible to fill a position in a lower classification, and with a lower salary. Accordingly, effective December 1, 2011, plaintiffs were demoted to Grade 18 Investigators.”
The plaintiffs say Cunningham and Farmer made the decisions to demote them.
“In late 2011, Cook County Commissioners voted to restore the plaintiffs’ positions in
an amended budget, but Plaintiffs were not returned to their Grade 20 Investigator classification,” the complaint states.
“In or around January 26, 2012, the Public Defender’s Office called a meeting, among other things, to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the office’s investigators in the wake of the demotions. At this meeting, the union president raised concerns about the tasks plaintiffs were being asked to perform in light of their compensation and grade. Specifically, the union president sought clarification regarding the Public Defender’s Office directive to plaintiffs that they should perform the same tasks as Grade 20 Investigators, including supervising employees and supervising multiple sites, despite the fact that these tasks were outside the scope and responsibilities of a Grade 18 Investigator.
“During the court of that meeting, Cunningham stated that plaintiffs would not have these problems [the demotions] if they had not joined the union.
“Since that time, both Cunningham and Farmer have stated that if plaintiffs had not joined the union they would not have been demoted.” (Brackets in complaint.)
The plaintiffs seek an injunction reinstating them to their former positions, and punitive damages for constitutional violations.
They are represented by Terence Moran, with Hughes, Socol, Piers, Resnick & Dym.
The other plaintiffs are Tyrone Williams, Carlton Williams, Mary Clements, Ben Williams, and Cassandra King Aaron.
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