Judges rules discrimination lawsuit against Evanston can proceed

Patrick Svitek, Summer Editor

A discrimination lawsuit against Evanston will move forward after the city’s attempt to stop it failed last week.

Judge John Darrah ruled Aug. 21 that Elke Tober-Purze’s sex bias claim was “adequately pled,” denying the city’s motion to dismiss three of four counts in the former deputy city attorney’s lawsuit. Darrah also decided Tober-Purze can proceed with accusations of age discrimination and violations of state law related to vacation and sick pay.

Evanston fired Tober-Purze three days after the Illinois Department of Labor notified the city she had filed a complaint against it in August 2010, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 26 in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Tober-Purze alleges Evanston terminated her employment on the basis of gender and age, as well as retaliated against her when she told the state that the city took away some of the vacation hours she had accumulated. 

Tober-Purze also claims she was paid $10,000 less per year than her male counterparts and snubbed for a promotion to Evanston’s top legal post, which was given to Grant Farrar in late 2009.

“Prior to her termination, she received excellent performance evaluations and was never disciplined,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit describes a work environment in which young, male employees got ahead while Tober-Purze was repeatedly passed over and mocked for being an older woman. Tober-Purze claims one of her bosses told her she was “not that pretty,” and another said previous lawyers he hired were “smart,” “good-looking” and “gorgeous,” and wore “tight sweaters” and “short skirts.” 

Tober-Purze also alleges a boss told her and her female colleagues, “It’s all been downhill since women got the vote,” and asked them to get rid of a magazine about female lawyers she had pointed out.

Farrar’s office said today he has no comment on Darrah’s ruling.

— Patrick Svitek