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Ex-parks worker gets $140,000 settlement

District resolves bias, wage claims

STERLING – A former Sterling Park District employee has received $140,000 in a settlement with the district for his discrimination and overtime wage claims.

Phillip Hall, the former superintendent of the Emerald Hill Golf Course, agreed in November to end his litigation in exchange for the money.

The district’s insurer covered the settlement and the legal bills, said Larry Schuldt, the parks’ executive director.

The agreement – officially called a “confidential settlement agreement” – says the parties settled because they wanted to avoid further controversy, litigation, costs, legal fees and inconvenience.

In 2008, Hall sued the district, claiming it failed to pay him overtime. A year later, he filed a second lawsuit, saying he was fired because of age discrimination.

Hall, who was superintendent from 1994 to 2006, was let go from the district, which decided against renewing his contract. He was 53 at the time.

According to the age discrimination lawsuit, Hall received years of exemplary performance evaluations, with overall ratings ranging from “good” to “outstanding,” and most often, “exceptional.”

Hall contended Schuldt regularly called him an “old man” and “old fart.” According to the district’s answer to the lawsuit, Schuldt couldn’t recall whether he made those comments, although the district denied Hall’s contentions more generally.

On March 23, 2006, Schuldt informed Hall that his employment would be terminated April 30, 2006, the end of Hall’s contract, according to the lawsuit. Schuldt stated that Hall was “resistant to change” and that the district needed someone who was “committed to remaining in the position for the long term,” the lawsuit says. The district denied those comments.

In his lawsuit, Hall noted that two employees in their 20s took over his duties after he left. They were inexperienced in the business compared to Hall, according to the lawsuit.

In its answer to the lawsuit, the district said some of Hall’s evaluations rated him as “good,” “outstanding” or “”exceptional,” but the district denied he received such ratings when it decided against renewing his contract.

In the other lawsuit, Hall said the district should have paid him overtime because he handled many manual duties that weren’t exempt from laws requiring overtime. He received a salary, regardless of how many hours he worked, throughout his time as golf superintendent. His salary ranged from $59,300 to $68,800, the latter amount being what he made when he left.

The district denied the wage claim.

Schuldt said the $140,000 settlement shouldn’t affect the district’s insurance premiums. Its insurer pools the premiums of hundreds of districts and sets rates based on its analysis of all of the districts, he said.

Sauk Valley Media couldn’t find a phone number for Hall, who moved to Lake Geneva, Wis., after leaving the golf course.

His attorney, Robin Potter of Chicago, said he would follow the settlement agreement.

Under its terms, he must not discuss its contents. If people ask him about it, he must respond only that “the matter has been resolved” or “I do not want to talk about it.”

The park district, however, released the agreement when Sauk Valley Media asked for it. It was required to do so under the Freedom of Information Act.

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