A female deputy in Illinois who claims she was passed up for promotion because of politics has won a $1 million jury award against the county.
Susan J. Lakics, who had worked for the DuPage County sheriff’s office for 16 years, claimed that Sheriff John Zaruba promoted less qualified candidates who scored lower than her on the sergeant’s test.
She sued the county, claiming sex discrimination and political retaliation.
The jury rejected her claim of gender bias but agreed that she was denied a promotion because of a political feud between her husband Steve, a former mayor, and her boss Zaruba. The two men, both Republicans, disagreed over a program for youth offenders in West Chicago, where Steve was mayor. After the dispute, Susan no longer supported Zaruba politically but continued to work as a deputy and seek promotion.
She also claimed in her lawsuit that after the political feud, Zaruba downgraded her job performance reviews, which are used for deciding who gets promoted.
Zaruba testified that he didn’t remember why he didn’t promote Lakics but that promotions went to those “best qualified by their skills, knowledge and ability to take whatever sergeant position” is open.
But a 2011 news investigation found that deputies who donated time or money to Zaruba’s political campaign were more likely to be promoted, and if they were disciplined they faced lighter punishment.
At the trial, she testified that political favoritism was a “well-known fact” in the office and that “If you don’t contribute to the sheriff’s campaign, you won’t go too far.”