ROCK ISLAND — Another complaint has been filed against the Rock Island County Health Department involving the same nursing supervisor.
AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), the union representing county employees, filed a formal grievance with the Illinois Labor Relations Board April 22 on behalf of five employees and three union stewards.
It is the fourth such complaint in recent months lodged against the health department and Chief Nursing Officer, Shari Ortner, who formerly went by her maiden name of Shari Langley. Ortner, who was hired by the health department in December 2017, has been accused of racism and discrimination by several employees.
AFSCME's claim was filed by union representative Audie Schmidt, who alleges retaliation by Ortner escalated after employees filed a grievance with AFSCME October 23 and that Health Department Administrator Nita Ludwig did nothing to prevent the incidences.
"Union members remaining in the department were then subjected to numerous retaliatory events while at work," Schmidt wrote. "Ludwig has not acted to prevent these retaliatory incidences."
Schmidt could not be reached for comment.
Joleen Diehl, a registered nurse with the infectious diseases department, filed a separate complaint April 11 with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging discrimination and retaliation by Ortner for her participation in the Oct. 23 grievance.
The next day, on April 12, Cynthia Lodge, another employee in the infectious diseases department, filed a lawsuit against Rock Island County and Ludwig, claiming she was terminated for her role in the same grievance, alleging Ludwig violated the Illinois Whistleblower Act.
Both Ludwig and Ortner would not return calls seeking comment.
"We are unable to talk about personnel matters, and grievances fall under that category," said Health Department Chief Operating Officer Janet Hill. "Meanwhile, we are going about the business of preserving, promoting and protecting Rock Island County residents."
As a result of the Oct. 23 grievance to AFSCME, the five employees involved and Ortner were all interviewed by Ludwig, as directed by AFSCME.
AFSCME's complaint to the Illinois Labor Relations Board outlines numerous incidences of alleged retaliation by Ortner against the employees following the grievance, including denying payment to Diehl for overtime hours worked, and assignment of a high-profile tuberculosis case to Diehl by Ortner in December without informing Diehl, thereby "putting at risk the health and welfare of Rock Island County residents and possibly (Diehl's) nursing license."
The complaint also says another registered nurse, Joe Williams, was assigned work he could not possibly complete within the time frame assigned by Ortner. As a result, Williams was "threatened with discipline and resigned from his job that day under protest."
Two other employees, Tannishia Garcia, and Elvia Ortiz, "continue to be closely watched and scrutinized by (Ortner)," the complaint says.
AFSCME is asking the health department to post a notice in a public location and send emails to all county employees stating the health department violated Illinois law and that they commit to following Illinois law moving forward and "current and former employees involved must be made whole, in every way."