Duckworth Settles Workplace Retaliation Lawsuit

The congresswoman settled the workplace retaliation lawsuit stemming from her time as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs

A lawsuit filed against Rep. Tammy Duckworth was settled Friday, just over a month before the case, stemming from her time as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, was set to go to trial in mid-August.

"Today’s resolution is appropriate for what was always a frivolous workplace case that dragged on over eight years and was dismissed in whole or in part multiple times," deputy campaign manager Matt McGrath said in a statement. "Tammy has and always will put protecting our Veterans first, and she has never hesitated to hold others accountable."

"Meanwhile, the Kirk campaign — which has lied about this case as frequently and as colorfully as Senator Kirk lied about his military record — needs to come clean. Senator Kirk himself falsely suggested it involved patronage hiring and ‘goombahs’ — whatever that means," McGrath continued.

"His campaign also lied when they said the case was about Tammy endangering Veterans’ care, and when they suggested taxpayers were on the hook for a six figure settlement. Kirk had clearly pinned his desperate campaign hopes on what a federal judge deemed a ‘garden variety workplace case,’ and now it's clear he’s got nothing left to offer Illinois families."

Incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk had been using the case as a component of his strategy against the congresswoman, even sending "save the date" postcards to remind voters of the trial. His campaign responded with an equally vitriolic statement, having spent several months deploying a strategy of tying Duckworth to incarcerated former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appointed her Director of the IDVA in 2006.

"We now know that there are 26,000 reasons why Tammy Duckworth was guilty. The simple truth is that if Tammy Duckworth was innocent, she would not have settled this case," Kirk's campaign manager Kevin Artl said in a statement.

"Instead of taking the stand and testifying, Duckworth has chosen to stay silent and settle the case at taxpayer expense in order to hide from the truth. Duckworth's actions have cost Illinois taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars while prolonging the legacy of Rod Blagojevich corruption."

According to the Attorney General's office, who represented Duckworth in the case, the settlement was not a finding of guilt or violation of the law, but more about the cost to the state if the case went to trial. 

“During the course of today’s discussions, it became clear that we could resolve this matter on behalf of the State and both Trish Simms and Tammy Duckworth for nuisance value – saving the State the costs of lawyers preparing for and trying the case,” spokesperson for the Attorney General's office Maura Possley said in a statement. “As a result, the Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the State, has reached an agreement to settle the case for $26,000, which will cover attorney’s fees and all costs. The settlement is based on the agreement that there is no finding of a violation of the law.”

The 8-year-old lawsuit against Duckworth alleged ethics violations and workplace retaliation, although the congresswoman denied treating the employees unfairly.

According to the lawsuit, Christine Butler claimed she was fired for insubordination after filing complaints against her boss, the facility's director. After later meeting with Duckworth, the termination was reversed within days.

Denise Goins claimed that her complaints about the same supervisor led to an unfavorable performance review after initially being ignored. Goins claimed the performance review prevented her from receiving a raise. In addition to this, she claimed Duckworth told her to "do your job and keep your mouth shut" during a meeting.

Butler and Goins sought compensatory damages of at least $50,000, as well as other financial penalties.

The trial was slated to take place August 15 and 16, just months before Duckworth faces Kirk in the November 8 election for U.S. Senator. The race is widely considered to be one of the most highly contested in the nation.

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