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Chicago Water Department Workers Reach $6 Million Settlement after subjected to Underpayment and Racism

Chicago Water Department Workers Reach $6 Million Settlement after subjected to Underpayment and Racism

Chicago Water Department workers who sued the city, claiming they were underpaid, promoted unfairly, and harassed by racist management, have reached a tentative settlement agreement with a settlement amount of about $6 million.

Ten days before to the scheduled trial date, the parties involved announced a settlement. Judge Matthew Kennelly of the United States District Court has not yet decided whether or not U.S. Ambassador to China Rahm Emanuel, a former mayor of Chicago, must testify.

During Monday morning’s status hearing, the parties announced the $5.8 million settlement. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Victor Henderson, stated that the bias originated “from the very top.”

In a statement, attorney Victor Henderson made it clear that racism was evident to all who looked, similar to how water flows down a hill.

A concern that arises is why the City’s top officials did nothing to end the bigotry that persisted for decades and impacted so many Black employees. The sad truth is that they just didn’t give a damn. “Their actions are deeply disappointing,” Henderson remarked.

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Twelve present and past employees of the Water Department are included in the settlement. A number of these individuals have worked for the department for many years, despite being denied better shifts and promotions and working in an environment where white managers were frequently accused of making racist and sexist comments.

The case was initiated in 2017, the same year in which an investigation by the municipal inspector general revealed many instances of racist email correspondence between senior Water Department managers.

At that time, Joseph Ferguson—the city’s inspector general—requested the dismissal of seven workers from the Water Department. After meeting with Water Management Commissioner Barret Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan, and superintendent Paul Hansen—the son of former Ald. Bernard Hansen—Emanuel terminated their employment.

The City Council’s approval and finalization of the contract are still pending. Despite the lack of disclosure in the federal court filings, Henderson did reveal the sum. The city’s law department’s spokeswoman chose not to comment.

Midway through June, according to the city attorney who spoke with Kennelly, the council should be able to review the deal.

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