Ronald Gaines, former assistant chief of the electronic monitoring unit at the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, discusses his lawsuit alleging age discrimination. | Mark Capapas/Sun-Times
In a lawsuit, Ronald Gaines, 69, claims his supervisor told him he was too old for the job and should retire to allow younger employees to advance their careers. “It was a slap in the face,” Gaines said Tuesday.
A former Cook County Sheriff’s employee has filed a lawsuit claiming he was forced out of his job due to age discrimination.
According to the lawsuit, Ronald Gaines, 69, was told by his boss, Carmen Ruffin, during a meeting in her office in August 2019 that he was too old to continue working as a supervisor in the sheriff’s electronic monitoring unit.
Ruffin, the suit claims, asked why Gaines, who’d been with the sheriff’s office since 2004, wouldn’t just retire and collect the pension he earned from his previous 28 years with the Chicago Police Department, so younger members of his unit could advance.
Gaines told Ruffin he enjoyed his job and declined to retire, according to the suit.
Then, this past March, Gaines said he had an unwelcome surprise at his door.
Members of the Office of Professional Review, which investigates employee misconduct, showed up at Gaines’ home to inform him he’d been fired — without offering any explanation, according to the suit.
Despite multiple inquiries, Gaines couldn’t get a straight answer as to why he was fired, according to the suit.
Only through a Freedom of Information Act request did Gaines learn Ruffin had submitted complaints a week after the meeting in her office, accusing him of not wearing a body camera on duty and of going to his doctor’s office once, briefly, during working hours, according to Gaines’ attorney, Cass Casper.
“It was a slap in the face,” Gaines said Tuesday of his firing. “These types of actions need to stop and be addressed.”
Gaines “never abused benefit and medical time, came to work nearly every day, and was the farthest thing from an attendance problem,” according to the suit,
Also, Gaines was never issued a body camera, Casper said Tuesday at a news conference downtown.
Casper called the complaints against Gaines “trivial” and not warranting termination.
The suit, filed last week in Cook County, names Ruffin and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart as defendants.
A Dart spokesman said in statement: “While we have just received this lawsuit and are reviewing it, Ronald Gaines was terminated because he was found to have left his work assignment for several hours without permission or notification. During the internal investigation into his actions, Gaines refused to cooperate with the investigation, ignored requests to be interviewed, and did not return to work. It was determined he had left his work assignment on other occasions as well. The Sheriff’s Office denies that the investigation into Gaines’ conduct and his subsequent termination had anything to do with his age.”
Casper responded: “We’re going to debunk all of that.”
He added: “We managed to uncover there is a pattern of age discrimination in the electronic monitoring unit.”
Gaines said he has two sons who work at the sheriff’s department and a son, a daughter and a daughter-in-law who work at the Chicago Police Department.
“So me being the head of my family and to be looked upon as far as being terminated for a job that I love in the position that I had, doing a good job, it was just unheard of, especially in my circle of family and friends,” Gaines said. “So that’s why I take it as a personal attack against me and my integrity, I take it as a personal attack against my family who all stand in law enforcement and have done a fine job,” he said.