SPRINGFIELD — A former City Water, Light and Power employee has filed a lawsuit against his former supervisors and the city of Springfield, claiming that he was fired because he is white.
In a suit filed in U.S. District Court on April 10, former CWLP meter reader Andrew Dunlevy claims that race was the basis on which he was fired from his job, alleging that he was let go while another meter reader, who is black, was retained.
Dunlevy and the other employee, referred to in the complaint by his initials, were both hired around September 2017. According to memos received by CWLP electric division manager John Davis, in August 2018 other managers recommended that both be dismissed before their one-year probationary period was up.
According to the memo on Dunlevy, an internal review "found that (he) had been keying in false readings" and that the behavior was "only going to get worse with more time." Dunlevy denies any intentional wrongdoing.
The memo on the other employee raised concerns about his previously undisclosed criminal record, which included charges of residential burglary, theft and criminal damage to property in 2010, which led to a guilty plea to burglary in that case.
The memo also raised concerns about large gaps in the employee's daily work.
Despite recommendations to dismiss both, only Dunlevy was let go. The other employee was given a six-month extension of his probationary period, which ended on March 25.
"You have the recommendations here for both of them," said John Baker, Dunlevy's attorney. "So you have two people who should be treated the same, and they're not. ..."
"The city is concerned about their hiring and their retention of black employees, and they're willing to look the other way under certain circumstances," Baker said. "And I think that's exactly what happened here."
On Feb. 6, Dunlevy filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. One month later, that body gave him the "right to sue" the city for allegedly violating his human rights.
In addition to the city, Mayor Jim Langfelder, CWLP chief engineer Doug Brown and Davis were listed as defendants, with Dunlevy claiming that they violated his right to equal protection under the law under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Langfelder on Wednesday said he was "not familiar" with the lawsuit and would have to find out more before commenting further.
City attorney Jim Zerkle said "the city is reviewing the legal claims made in the complaint" and "will file an appropriate response with the court" once that review is complete.
Dunlevy is seeking damages for the income that he has lost, an award of non-economic damages and punitive damages. The suit does not specify how much Dunlevy earned on the job.
The city of Springfield has made a public effort to boost minority hiring, which has for years lagged behind minorities' share of the city's population.
In March, Langfelder said minority hiring for city employees had increased from 10% to 13% since he took office, with the number of African Americans employed by city government increasing from 124 to 149.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Springfield is about 71% white and 20% black.