Cook County Record

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Fired African-American Chicago elections worker says lost job after refusing order to print blank ballots for boss' 'friends'

By Jonathan Bilyk | Dec 1, 2015

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An African-American 24-year veteran employee of the agency that oversees and administers elections in the city of Chicago has sued her former employer, claiming she was fired after refusing a superior’s alleged order to print blank ballots for his "friends," and she was then replaced by a white male.

On Nov. 30, Sheri Bowen filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against the Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago. The lawsuit for the alleged retaliatory firing also follows up on a discrimination complaint she filed earlier with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the complaint, Bowen had received a letter from the EEOC on Sept. 1, giving her clearance to launch her legal action against the Chicago Elections Board within 90 days.

Bowen, 48, who lives in Cook County, said she had worked for the elections board since 1990. The complaint does not specify her job or title at the elections board at any point in her tenure. However, an online listing indicated a Sheri Bowen held a job at the elections board with the title “Supervisor Election Support Activities.”

According to the complaint, Bowen was fired from her job on Nov. 11, 2014.

In her complaint, Bowen alleged she was fired after she refused to comply with an alleged order from her superior to “prepare blank ballots with blank applications.” Bowen alleged the blank ballots were to be for friends of Lance Gough, executive director of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. She alleged in her complaint the order was delivered through Gough’s secretary on Oct. 19, 2014.

She said such an act would have been in violation of Illinois Election Law.

After her termination, the elections board replaced her with a white male. She alleged further she was routinely underpaid compared to other “similarly situated” whites and males working in the office.

Bowen’s complaint included four counts, including allegations the elections board violated the Illinois whistleblower law and discriminated against her on basis of race and gender.

She has requested the court reinstate her to her past job and award damages of at least $150,000 for her lost pay, compensate her for all lost benefits and restore her full accrual of pension benefits.

Bowen has requested a jury trial.

She is represented in the action by attorney Frank Avila, of the Avila Law Group, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Avila Law GroupBoard of Election Commissioners of the City of ChicagoCity of Chicago