FARMER CITY — A former Farmer City police officer says her pay was less than other officers due to gender discrimination, and is suing the city for reinstatement and back pay.

Lara A. Davis, 36, who served as a part-time school resource officer for five of her eight years with the department, said her pay dropped from $19.04 to $17.27 per hour when her position was made full time in 2019.

According to the civil lawsuit filed in federal court, Davis said then-Farmer City Police Chief Glenn Neal told her the pay was in accordance with the union pay scale.

But she found later that a subsequent hire — a male officer — was given credit for past service in order to boost his starting pay to $21 per hour.

When she questioned Neal on the discrepancy, the court document alleges Neal “became angry and asked Ms. Davis because she was ‘wasting his time if she didn’t want to accept the job.’ Chief Neal followed this statement by informing Ms. Davis that once she began the full-time SRO position, she would be placed on a 12-month probationary period with the Department.

“As a result of the intimidating and hostile environment with the department, Ms. Davis felt compelled to resign in August of 2019,” according to the lawsuit.

Farmer City Manager Sue McLaughlin said the city would not comment on pending litigation.

The court filing also includes a Feb. 10 memo from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stating “the evidence obtained in the investigation establishes a reasonable cause to believe that Respondent discriminated against Charging Party on the basis of her sex, female, by subjecting her to different terms and conditions of employment than her male counterparts,” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

But the U.S. Department of Justice said on Oct. 28 that it would not file criminal charges, notifying Davis that civil action was still an option if filed within 90 days of the notification.

Davis is asking for a trial by jury.

Besides back pay and reinstatement, she is also asking for the court to award her punitive damages for pain and suffering, and to be awarded legal costs.

A hearing date has not been set for the case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Urbana.

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