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Monday, February 24, 2020

Cook Forest Preserve asks court to undo arbitration award for fired worker who allegedly lied to Inspector General


By Carrie Bradon | Jul 20, 2019

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CHICAGO — The Cook County Forest Preserve District is seeking that an arbitration award be vacated, alleging a worker at the heart of the arbitration matter lied to the county's inspector general.

The district filed a complaint July 11 in Cook County Circuit Court against International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 700, seeking vacation of an arbitration award in favor of a union member who allegedly committed sexual harassment and lied to those investigating the matter.

According to the complaint, the forest preserve district terminated Joseph Schmidt after an investigation by the Cook County Office of the Independent Inspector General (OIIG) had found Schmidt had engaged in sexual harassment in the workplace and had provided false information in connect with the investigation. 

The suit states that the sexual harassment charges included Schmidt participating in inappropriate banter with a male co-worker. The OIIG recommended that Schmidt be terminated and placed on a do not hire list, which the district did on June 27, 2018. The alleged incident involved four district employees, and was allegedly captured in a video on Nov. 28, 2017/. The surveillance video did not include audio, the complaint said.

Despite the other individuals alleging Schmidt did indeed take part in the sexual harassment, Schmidt says that he did not. Schmidt also alleged he had not seen the footage, but it is believed that he did attempt to share the video, which would constitute violations of sexual harassment ordinance.

An arbitrator found that Schmidt had not violated the sexual harassment policy nor had he lied to OIIG. The district seeks an order to vacate the arbitration award entered in this matter. The district argued there is no possible interpretive route to the arbitrator's award, based on the evidence, and the award does not draw its essence from the parties' collective bargaining agreement. The district argued the award must also be vacated because the case law reflects a strong Illinois public policy against an employee lying to OIIG.

The district is represented by attorney Hubert O. Thompson of Brothers Thompson PC in Chicago.

Cook County Circuit Court case number 2019-CH-08207

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Forest Preserve District of Cook CountyCircuit Court of Cook County

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