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updated: 6/2/2012 8:13 AM

Lake County Housing Authority settles race, gender discrimination lawsuit

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  • David Northern

    David Northern


Lake County Housing Authority board members have settled a federal lawsuit filed by a Gurnee-area woman who claimed she encountered discrimination on the job because she's white and of Polish heritage.

Housing authority officials voted 6-0 to settle the suit filed by Malgorzata Friedman in late April, roughly six months after U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman dismissed portions of her complaint and let other claims stand.

Friedman, 42, from unincorporated Warren Township, lodged the federal discrimination suit against the housing authority and Executive Director David Northern in January 2011.

She worked at the agency as a certification specialist for slightly more than two years until her dismissal March 25, 2010.

Northern said the settlement prohibits him from commenting on the case.

Details on what Friedman received from the settlement were not immediately available from the housing authority Friday, and no information was included in meeting minutes that reflected the board's vote for the deal in April.

Friedman had sought more than $300,000 in damages from the housing authority, lost wages and benefits, and reinstatement to her job.

Documents filed by Roselle attorney Michael T. Smith claimed Friedman was subjected to race discrimination because of the housing authority's "failure to treat her the same as nonwhite employees."

Guzman, however, issued an opinion and order last October rejecting the accusation skin color played a role in discrimination. He let stand the claims Friedman encountered discrimination at the housing authority because of her gender and national origin.

"In the complaint, Friedman fails to allege any facts relating to how the color of her skin, specifically, motivated (the authority's) alleged discriminatory treatment. She does not refer to the core of a color discrimination claim, which is the particular hue of her skin," Guzman wrote.

Friedman complained to her bosses about not being treated the same as workers who weren't Polish regarding her work environment, discipline and performance standards, according to the federal complaint.

Gender discrimination occurred when immediate supervisors harassed and deliberately accused her of poor work for two years while men performed as well or worse, the lawsuit alleged.

Smith didn't return a message seeking comment, while Friedman couldn't be located Friday. Last year, housing authority lawyer James Best said Friedman was suspended for performance problems and insubordination before being fired.

Best, who couldn't be reached Friday, said there were other grounds for her dismissal.

Friedman claimed the hostile work environment unreasonably interfered with terms and conditions of her employment.

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