The Daily Illini

Closing arguments heard in Sprout case

Lynn Sprout of Urbana listens to the closing arguments of Carle Foundation Hospital´s representative Ella McLaughlin at the Urbana City Hall on Thursday night. Online Poster

Lynn Sprout of Urbana listens to the closing arguments of Carle Foundation Hospital´s representative Ella McLaughlin at the Urbana City Hall on Thursday night. Online Poster

By Katie Heinz

The Urbana Human Relations Commission heard testimony and closing arguments Thursday evening in the City of Urbana (Lynn Sprout) v. Carle Foundation Hospital case, regarding Sprout’s complaint of sexual orientation discrimination against her former employer.

Thursday’s hearing was the ninth day of a series of testimonies that began in July, more than two years after Sprout’s original complaint was filed on May 16, 2002.

Vacellia Clark, Urbana Human Relations director, said that it might be 30 days until the commission will reconvene with a decision on the case.

Sprout, a former pediatric nurse and manager at Carle Foundation Hospital for 15 years, was fired on March 20, 2002, for what Carle officials explained as performance problems. Sprout alleged that Carle Foundation Hospital violated City of Urbana Codes by not providing her with Family and Medical Leave Act coverage and bereavement leave during her employment and by terminating her employment.

A 90-day action plan was written on Aug. 21, 2001, by Carle supervisors, documenting Sprout’s performance problems. In closing arguments, the respondent – Carle Hospital – stated that problems including a lack of response on Sprout’s part to acknowledge mistakes made by her nursing staff began in March of 2000. Sprout disagreed.

She said that she was fired after she revealed her homosexuality to a co-worker and took time off to take care of her dying domestic partner, Linda Schurvinske. Traci Nally, council for Sprout – the complainant – said the time period referred to in Sprout’s termination letter referred to the exact time period when Sprout told her employers that she was a lesbian.

“Timing was based on something other than Lynn’s appraisal,” Nally said at Thursday’s hearing. “All circumstantial evidence was due to her homosexuality.”

Sprout’s complaint was filed under the Urbana Human Rights Ordinance, the law that protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Kathy Howell, director of human resources at Carle Hospital, said Sprout’s charge is the first charge against the hospital on the basis on sexual orientation. She said the hospital has policies that prohibit discrimination and training for employees.

“We are confident that we are compliant with laws and have things in place to make sure this doesn’t happen,” Howell said. “We hope that the City of Urbana finds that Carle Foundation Hospital did not discriminate against Miss Sprout.”

Kimberlie Kranich, co-founder of the 85% Coalition, a direct action group for civil rights for Illinois’ lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, has led her organization’s support of Sprout and said a victory will have a great impact on equality in the workplace and employers in Champaign.

“She was willing to go past just her personal gain – getting her job back,” Kranich said. “She went to go beyond that to affect policy change.”

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