Arsenal employee alleges age, sex discrimination in suitBy Ed Tibbetts
A Rock Island Arsenal employee says that she was subjected for years to verbal abuse by a supervisor who routinely berated workers, screaming and throwing things at them — and that superiors repeatedly ignored it.
Sheila Langfeldt-Abbott, who is 47 years old and has worked on the Arsenal for 26 years, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging age and sex discrimination.
The suit was filed in late 2012, but Langfeldt-Abbott, who is employed by the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, headquartered on the Arsenal, has decided recently to speak about it.
She is alleging that beginning in 2009, Jerry DeLaCruz became her supervisor and that he “screamed, yelled, berated, criticized and created a hostile environment” for her and other women older than age 40 under his command.
The suit says that, despite complaints to superiors by Langfeldt-Abbott, who was the deputy chief of staff for resource management for the command, and others, the abuse continued. DeLaCruz was the chief of staff for resource management, the suit says.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Rock Island and lists the Army and Army Secretary John McHugh as defendants.
It also alleges that, despite being more qualified, Langfeldt-Abbott was passed over for a promotion in 2010 that was offered to a younger, male employee, who turned it down, saying Langfeldt-Abbott was more qualified.
The Army, which filed a response to the lawsuit in 2013, denied the allegations made against DeLaCruz.
The Army Sustainment Command referred questions about the lawsuit Wednesday to the U.S. Attorney’s office, but a spokeswoman for the office’s central district in Illinois, Sharon Paul, said as a matter of policy it does not comment on pending matters.
In an interview, Langfeldt-Abbott said she’s filed internal complaints about DeLaCruz’s treatment of her, but that nothing was done and she has since been reassigned to duties overseeing fewer subordinates and less funding. She added her career has suffered a setback as a result.
“I’ve lost my career path in the meantime,” she said.
Previously, Langfeldt-Abbott said she’d been an exemplary employee, and she furnished two performance reviews giving her high marks.
She said that she and DeLaCruz were transferred from their positions in 2013, and that he no longer is her supervisor.
Testimonials from several co-workers that were part of previous internal complaints, and were furnished by her attorneys, said Langfeldt-Abbott had suffered emotionally because of the abuse, and that others were subjected to the abuse, too.
The testimonials also said that Langfeldt-Abbott feared for her safety and that she was treated differently because of her age and gender.
In the interview, Langfeldt-Abbott said she still was continuing to do her job. “As for myself, I’m coping,” she said.
She is asking for back pay, compensation and attorneys’ costs in the lawsuit.
Langfeldt-Abbott is being represented by Stephen Fieweger of the Katz, Huntoon & Fieweger law firm, which is based in Moline.
Also, Tully Rinckey Attorneys & Counselors at Law, which is based in New York, is working with her on the case.