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Cop Alleges Discrimination Over Military Service

A Skokie, Ill., police officer filed a federal lawsuit today alleging the village and police department discriminated against him because of his military service, then retaliated when he complained.

Baldo Bello, an eight-year department veteran, asserts in the suit that the village violated state and federal laws when they changed his work schedule and forced him to use his regular days off to fulfill his military obligations. Bello, who is a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, said in the lawsuit that he is required to attend monthly and annual trainings.

In September 2012, Bello met with representatives from the police department and village to discuss the village's "new military leave of absence policy, which disparately affected members of the military," according to the lawsuit. In May of the following year, Bello claims in the lawsuit that he once again complained about the policy.

Despite his complaints, Bello said he was forced to change his work schedule on six separate occasions between June and December 2013 so that his regular days off coincided with his military obligations.

During that time, he was accused of engaging in misconduct, placed on administrative leave then told to report for desk duty, according to the lawsuit. On Oct. 19, he served a one-day suspension for insubordination, the lawsuit states.

"Prior to Officer Bello complaining that that defendants were violating the law, he had never been suspended," according to the lawsuit, which also seeks damages under the Illinois Whistleblower Act.

Village spokeswoman Ann Tennes said the village is "confident that our military leave policy is in full compliance with both state and federal law."

She added, "In fact, many Village of Skokie police officers serve in the military and have over the years, and his is the first complaint the village of Skokie has ever received."

Tennes would not say whether the village changed its military policy in recent years, but said that she expected to have additional comments after village attorneys reviewed the complaint.

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