In Illinois, a village outside Chicago will pay a former seasonal worker $112,500 after he sued claiming he had to suffer a hostile work environment, including violence, because he was gay.
Liam Walsh alleged that he was discriminated against by the village of Orland Park after he came out to colleagues in 2020. Walsh, who worked at the Recreation and Parks Department from 2016 to 2020, was not rehired in 2021 even after receiving good job performance reviews, according to the suit.
The settlement between Walsh and the village was reached earlier this month. According to the settlement, the village denies all responsibility and fault, the Chicago Tribunereports.
Walsh’s lawsuit alleges that a coworker beat him, slapped him, and made derogatory remarks about him after Walsh disclosed his sexual orientation. He claimed in the suit that the coworker engaged in a protracted campaign of homophobia, gender-motivated violence, sexual harassment, and retaliation against him.
Specifically, Walsh complained that the village violated the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Illinois Gender Violence Act, and the Illinois Civil Rights Act by failing to act properly after repeated incidents.
The coworker initially acted “standoffish and unfriendly” after Walsh came out as gay, he alleged in the suit. Walsh commented on the coworker’s unfriendly manner while both were outside a shed. The coworker then allegedly slapped Walsh in the face. The coworker then ripped Walsh’s cap off and threw it away, according to the suit.
Walsh said he asked a supervisor who witnessed the alleged attack to take action against the coworker, but that supervisor failed to do so.
In another incident, that same coworker bumped Walsh and used homophobic insults against him while employees were chalking an athletic field, he claims. In the lawsuit, Walsh said another supervisor “begged” him not to report the incident to human resources.
Things came to a head when the coworker attacked Walsh on August 8, 2020, the lawsuit alleges.
While working on a project, Walsh entered a garage to get some tools. Despite Walsh’s request, the coworker refused to help, according to the lawsuit. Walsh told a supervisor about the colleague’s alleged refusal to cooperate when the coworker entered the garage, jumped Walsh, and began beating him, the suit states.
”[The coworker] punched Walsh in the eye and continued striking him,” the suit claims. “Walsh then attempted to put his hands up to protect himself from the barrage of blows.”
Village officials maintained that they didn’t become aware of any alleged misconduct until nearly a year after the incident occurred, and once they learned of misconduct and workplace violence, they acted swiftly to remove several employees.
Besides attorney fees and litigation costs covered, Walsh also withdraws his lawsuit as part of the settlement.A lawyer at Chicago’s Garfinkel Group, which represented Walsh, said Walsh wasn't available to comment on the settlement, according to the paper.
“However, it is our fervent hope that going forward, the Village of Orland Park and all municipalities in Illinois dedicate more resources and training to ensure that their employees and citizens are protected from bias or worse, any violence stemming from prejudice. All employees in this state should feel and be safe in their place of work,” the firm said.
As part of the lawsuit, Walsh sought compensation for lost wages, attorney fees, emotional distress, and other losses.