Jury awards Lake County deputy $750,000 in discrimination case

A federal jury has awarded a veteran Lake County sheriff’s deputy $750,000 in a gender discrimination case, an attorney said Thursday.

However, Deputy Heather Aldridge won’t receive that sum, her attorney, Catherine Simmons-Gill said. The award likely will be reduced to the legal maximum of $300,000, Simmons-Gill said.

Aldridge sued the sheriff’s office in 2011, claiming she was subjected to unwarranted disciplinary warnings and other actions for years while working as a K-9 officer. She also alleged administrators used minor complaints filed against her to transfer her out of the unit.

Sheriff Mark Curran has acknowledged what he called cultural problems in the sheriff’s office. Curran said he’s worked to improve the atmosphere for women in the office.

The “perpetrators” who led to Aldridge’s complaint no longer are with the office, he told the Daily Herald on Thursday.

The jury’s award, which was announced Wednesday in court in Chicago, won’t be the last decision in the case, Simmons-Gill said.

Aldridge also is seeking reassignment to the K-9 unit and lost pay. Those issues will be settled by Judge Susan E. Cox.

Simmons-Gill declined to comment on her client’s reaction to the verdict.

Undersheriff Raymond J. Rose said no decisions have been made about Aldridge’s future assignments.

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