The Rock Island County Metropolitan Airport Authority has paid $550,000 to a former airport employee to settle a discrimination claim stemming from her dismissal.
At a board meeting last month, the airport authority approved a settlement agreement with Holly Green, the former finance and administration director. The airport authority, the Quad-City International Airport’s governing body, also agreed to pay the employer contribution to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund for Green, which was estimated at $14,875.
According to the settlement agreement, obtained by the Quad-City Times through a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request, the settlement was covered by the airport’s insurance carrier and the agreement does not concede liability or fault on the authority’s part.
Green was employed by the airport authority from December 2004 through December 2011, when she was fired. After her termination, Green filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The settlement indicates that the state agency dismissed the claims after its investigation with a finding of “a lack of substantial evidence.”
But in December 2012, Green told the airport authority she planned to file a lawsuit.
Sigrid Zaehringer, an attorney with the Moline law firm of Califf & Harper who represented the airport, said the airport accepted the settlement “at the direction of the insurance company.”
She added that the airport “didn’t think it was in their best interest to be part of further legal proceedings that would certainly be costly and time-consuming, which is why they agreed to settle.”
However, the settlement indicates both the authority and the insurance company “believe it has acted legally.”
Aviation director Bruce Carter and Bryan Johnson, assistant director, also were named as respondents in the settlement agreement.
In Green’s original discrimination charge, also obtained by a Times’ FOIA request, she claimed gender discrimination and retaliation.
Documents show that she accused Carter of making statements indicating he had a bias against women of childbearing age. Then in 2011, when Green was pregnant, she claimed that she was “removed from many meetings, project and project information, ostracized and made to feel unimportant by having my duties and roles substantially reduced.” After returning from maternity leave, she was terminated for what she called “false reasons.”
Green also claimed she was retaliated against “for enforcing non-discrimination policies” and for assisting in an investigation of civil rights violations in the workplace against Carter involving another employee. Green’s job duties included investigating and resolving harassment complaints.
Documents show Green investigated a harassment claim filed against Carter in November 2011 and was asked to turn her notes and documents over to Carter. She later was told the investigation would be turned over to a law firm for independent investigation.
The discrimination complaint also shows that a month later, Green was informed of a sexually tinged hostile work environment claim being made by another employee against Carter. In that case, she immediately turned the complaint over to the authority for investigation.
On Dec. 15, 2011, she was questioned about the harassment complaint investigation, and a day later, she was put on suspension pending a pre-disciplinary hearing. She was terminated Dec. 28, 2011, a week after the hearing.
Her discrimination claims were dismissed Dec. 18, 2012, by the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
Carter declined to comment on the matter.
Zaehringer said she was not allowed to comment on any provisions of the settlement. She did confirm that Green has since been paid the settlement. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh is the airport authority’s insurance carrier.
John Doak, Green’s attorney, said he is not authorized to comment on the factors underlying the settlement or on the facts and legal theories.
“The matter was resolved to her satisfaction, and she has no further comment on the matter,” he said.
According to the documents, some of the terms of the agreement included:
The airport authority’s insurer will reimburse the authority for its settlement payment. The airport authority was to pay Green $366,685 — less the customary payroll withholding — by Feb. 28. The insurer also was to pay $183,315 to the Moline law firm of Katz, Huntoon & Fieweger, which represented Green. The payments “represent the full and final settlement of any and all of Green’s claims against the respondents,” the agreement said.
The parties agreed that $119,000 of the settlement amount represents back pay compensation and is subject to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund employee contribution.
Green and the airport authority agreed to keep the nature, terms and conditions of the agreement “strictly confidential.” Discussing the issue beyond her immediate family, legal counsel and tax adviser — who all must agree to keep it confidential — would be a violation of the settlement. If Green violates those terms, she would have to pay the authority liquidated damages equal to the payments she received under the agreement.
Green “agrees she will never institute any action or suit at law or in equity against” the airport authority or the other released parties. In addition, she promises not to be come part of any class action in any proceeding or case in which a claim against Metropolitan Airport Authority or any other released parties is made.
The respondents “deny liability and maintain that MAA (Metropolitan Airport Authority) is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate ... ”
The agreement also prohibits Green from applying for employment with the authority, its successors or affiliates.