BRADLEY — A 40-year employee of the Village of Bradley filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday in Kankakee County court against the village under the state of Illinois’ Whistleblower Act.
In the lawsuit, Jeff Hackley argues he was terminated after bringing attention to a supervisor that a person arrested during the weekend of April 10-12 was reportedly COVID-19 positive.
Hackley, a retired police officer, was working as the department’s record clerk at the time.
Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson told the Daily Journal Thursday he had not seen nor did he believe the village had been served the lawsuit.
He also said the village would not comment on pending litigation.
According to the lawsuit, Hackley learned of the possible infection while filing reports on April 13. The lawsuit said the individual was not allowed entrance to Kankakee County Jail due to the possibility of COVID-19 infection.
The officers brought the person back to the station’s booking room, where the individual was booked and then released with a notice to appear at a future date.
Bradley employees must go through the booking room to access a restroom.
According to the lawsuit, no notice or warning was given to employees that a possibly COVID-19 positive individual had been brought into Bradley’s booking room.
“Bradley took no action to implement safety precautions in order to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19 by Mr. Hackley or other Bradley employees who worked in close proximity to the booking room in the course of performing their duties or utilizing the employee bathroom area,” according to the lawsuit.
On April, 13, Hackley said he talked to a member of the building’s maintenance staff who said he had not been informed of the potential exposure.
The staff member said he was not directed to follow CDC protocols or the State of Illinois COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a thorough cleaning of the booking room to sanitize and disinfect the area to limit the potential spread of the disease to employees and others who may come into contact with the area.
Hackley sent an email to his supervisor informing him of the following:
“[Jane Doe] ... was brought into our PD for processing after she was refused entry by JCDC for COVID-19. Was the department sanitized after her visit? I am concerned since today I went through the area using the doors and such to get to the restroom.”
The lawsuit said Hackley had reasonable cause for the health and safety of employees regarding possible COVID-19 exposure and the village’s failure to implement recommended state and federal guidelines to protect employees from potential exposure to COVID-19.
“Mr. Hackley experienced increased stress and anxiety regarding the potential risks to his personal health and well-being since he is an individual over the age of 60 considered to be ‘at risk’ of developing complications from COVID-19 and suffers from hypertension, which also places him ‘at risk’ of developing complications from COVID-19.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that on April 14, the village placed Hackley on administrative leave in response to his efforts to inform his supervisor of the village’s failure to notify him and other Bradley employees of the potential exposure to COVID-19 and failure to take precautions to prevent that exposure.
The village retaliated by firing Hackley on April 28, according to the lawsuit, for voicing his concerns that the village had failed “to implement recommended orders, rules, proclamations and/or guidelines issued by State and Federal agencies to protect Mr. Hackley, other Bradley employees and the public from potential exposure to COVID-19.”
When Hackley retired as a lieutenant from the police department, the village gave him and his wife lifetime guaranteed health insurance.
After he was terminated on April 28, that policy was canceled. It has since been reinstated by the village after Hackley filed a grievance.
Since then, the village has threatened to cancel the insurance coverage, “if Hackley continued to challenge his termination of employment through administrative or legal proceedings,” according to the lawsuit.
“Bradley’s actions toward Mr. Hackley are contrary to the Illinois Whistleblower Act which prohibits any act that would be materially adverse to a reasonable employee and is because of the employee disclosing or attempting to disclose public corruption or wrongdoing,” according to the lawsuit.
“Here, Mr. Hackley disclosed public wrongdoing to an agent of government or law enforcement agency and Bradley took various actions, as set forth above, including, but not limited to termination of employment, which are materially adverse to Mr. Hackley.”
Hackley is represented by Chicago attorney Brian C. Hlavin and is asking the court to grant him monetary damages.