A former employee in the Jasper County Treasurer's Office has filed a sex-based wrongful termination lawsuit against the county and Treasurer Doug Bishop.
Donna K. Illingworth filed suit in Jasper County District Court last week claiming she was subjected to a hostile work environment and was terminated in retaliation for her complaints about workplace policies and procedures.
Illingworth, 57, was hired as an auto clerk in the Jasper County Motor Vehicle and the Driver's License Division in November 1998. Four years later she was promoted to second deputy.
The suit contends that in June 2012, the defendants searched her work area while she was on vacation where they allegedly found $2 in her drawer. The suit contends she was accused of using the money to balance her office drawer, an action Illingworth denies.
In July 2012, Illingworth claims Bishop notified her that her annual salary of $52,000 would be reduced by 5 percent to $49,000. At the same time, a male co-worker in the office received a pay increase, the suit contends.
After being notified of the salary reduction, Illingworth became "very upset, sad, stressed, depressed and anxious." Her medical doctor advised that she use sick leave to take time away from work. She also "received counseling to address the affect that her workplace environment was having on her mental health and well-being."
Upon her return to work in early July 2012, Illingworth submitted her written concerns of "workplace discrimination" to Jasper County Human Resources Director Dennis Simon. Upon receipt of her complaints, Illingworth was placed on paid administrative leave, purportedly to allow time for an investigation into the complaints.
"On or about July 13, 2012, Defendants terminated Plaintiff allegedly due to Plaintiff's insubordination and the use of private funds to balance Plaintiff's drawer," the lawsuit states.
The suit claims that Illingworth was subjected to a sex-based hostile work environment, that she was wrongfully terminated based on her sex and that she was fired in retaliation for making complaints about the office.
She is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney fees.
Illingworth was twice denied unemployment benefits following her dismissal from county employment.
"The claimant clearly disregarded the standards of behavior which an employer has a right to expect of its employees," the appeal ruling states. "The claimants actions were volitional. She intentionally disregarded the employer's policies and made her own rules. When a claimant intentionally disregards the standards of behavior that the employer has a right to expect of its employees, the claimant's actions are misconduct. The claimant was discharged for misconduct. The claimant is not eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits because the claimant was discharged from work for misconduct."