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City, former employee to settle federal discrimination lawsuit; former chief, employee dismissed

City, former employee to settle federal discrimination lawsuit; former chief, employee dismissed


MURPHYSBORO — Attorneys for the City of Murphysboro and a former employee are in the process of settling a civil lawsuit filed last year claiming sexual harassment and disability discrimination.

The former Murphysboro Police chief and a current telecommunication officer for the department were dismissed from the suit earlier this month.

Allison Covington’s lawsuit was filed in federal court in May 2018. In it, she claimed she was subjected to sexual harassment by defendants Ken Johnson, who is a telecommunication officer for the city, and former Murphysboro Police Chief Chad Roberts. Covington also claimed Johnson made demeaning comments and verbally abused her because of her diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The lawsuit, filed by Covington’s attorney, Sarah Jane Hunt, alleged Johnson refused to train Covington, and she was later terminated in retaliation for reporting and opposing Johnson’s sexual comments, advances, discrimination and verbal abuse.

In an Oct. 11 joint motion between the defendants and the plaintiff, Roberts and Johnson were dismissed as defendants from the case.

The City of Murphysboro is also named in the suit.

Judge Phil Gilbert earlier this month also filed a judgment on the defense’s motion for a summary judgment. Murphysboro City Attorney A. Courtney Cox said these summary judgments are common in federal civil cases.

“It’s a way to refine and narrow the issues to be presented at trial,” Cox said Tuesday. During this process, Cox said the judge is asked to look at the undisputed facts of the case in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and determine what has legal justification for a jury trial.

In his judgment, Gilbert granted the summary judgment for Count 3, which was the alleged equal protection violation, but denied the request for the discrimination and retaliation claims in Counts 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Hunt said it was after Gilbert’s judgment was filed that the settlement discussions resumed.

Normally, Cox said, the counts denied a summary judgment would be allowed to proceed to a jury. However, he said in this case both parties are in the process of settling the case, so no jury trial will be needed.

“We are very close to that,” Cox said, noting that they were collecting signatures. Cox said he would not comment on the way the settlement came about, but said generally these matters are negotiated on both sides.

Cox said he was not sure if it had been decided whether the details of a monetary settlement, if there were one, would be released publicly.


On Twitter: @ismithreports


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