Longtime LaGrange resident, John Malkinson and his law firm, Malkinson & Halpern, P.C., announced that a federal court in Chicago gave final approval Monday to a $560,000 employment discrimination settlement with the City of Chicago and a former supervisor in the City’s Department of Transportation. The settlement, also approved by the City Council and being entirely paid for by the City, will provide compensation to 36 former and current minority City employees.
Patty Young, a former inspector with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), originally filed the class claim against the City and multiple supervisors, including Joseph Annunzio, alleging repeated racist and discriminatory behavior during work hours by Annunzio, including his conduct of publicly referring to one African American employee as “Magilla Gorilla,” making numerous and continuous racially charged comments and slurs about various other African American and foreign born employees over a two year period, and running around during an office holiday party with a tablecloth on his head while proclaiming himself to be the “Grand Wizard”. The suit further alleged that Annunzio and CDOT kept African American Inspectors segregated within the office and by assignment, stationing them largely in black-populated south side precincts while non-black inspectors were repeatedly stationed in white or ethnic north side locations that provided better conditions and advancement opportunities. Despite repeated requests by Young and others, Annunzio was allowed to keep his position for nearly two years after his actions came to light and was even promoted during this period.
“Justice has finally prevailed”, said Seth Halpern of Malkinson & Halpern, P.C., one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “Patty Young and the other plaintiffs in this case have bravely fought hard to not only expose the racist behavior of a rogue City supervisor, but to bring to light the culture of turning the other way and overlooking such behavior that was so prevalent and pervasive within the Department of Transportation.” Early on, the United States Department of Justice investigated but declined to get involved in the claim. “That was a tad disappointing,” says attorney John Malkinson, who sat in on many of the Department of Justice’s witness interviews. “The outrageous behavior in this instance cried out for justice; it was of the sort one might have expected in Mississippi sixty years ago, but not in Chicago in the 21st century.”
Young, who is now retired from the City, alleged that her repeated pleas for intervention by CDOT administration were ignored and, in in some instances, resulted in her being more severely harassed. Young and the other class members will each receive varying portions of the settlement distribution based upon the level of their exposure to the discriminatory behavior.