A Chicago area jury awarded $1,000,000 to a DuPage County Sheriff’s deputy who claimed that she was passed over for a promotion because she didn’t support the Sheriff’s political campaign.
Susan Lakics was a longtime employee of the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office. In her decade of service as an officer, she received perfect and near perfect performance reviews and was praised by her supervisors. She took the sergeant’s exam in 2006, and finished sixth. But when it came time to promote the sixth person on the list, Lakics was passed over — allegedly at the Sheriff’s insistence.
Sheriff John Zaruba ran a tight ship in DuPage County. He also allegedly ran a “pay-to-play” operation, whereby officers were expected to donate to his campaign in exchange for promotions. Lakics, whose husband was the mayor, did not contribute to the re-election fund. And her husband’s decision to delay the opening of Zaruba’s boot camp for youthful offenders caused a falling out between the two.
In the lawsuit she filed in federal court, Lakics alleged sexual discrimination, retaliation, and interference with her First Amendment right to support the politician that she pleased. The defense argued that Lakics wasn’t passed over, but that she was given a patrol position, which she had requested. The defense also contended that a scoring error that caused a change in the ranked list was discovered immediately before the promotion of the sixth candidate.
The jury didn’t buy any of that. After a five day trial and 90 minutes of deliberation, they found for Lakics on her claims of political retaliation and deprivation of her First Amendment rights. Lakics was awarded $1,000,000 in compensatory damages.
Case: Lakics v. County of DuPage, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Case No. 1:09-cv-06929 (February 10, 2013).
Originally published in Criminal Legal News on December 19, 2017.