River Forest High School District 200 recently agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit with a former baseball coach, Chris Ledbetter.
Chris Ledbetter, a physical education teacher in the River Forest High School District 200, recently agreed to settle an employment discrimination case he filed against Oak Park and the school district back in December 2019. The suit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court but in February it was removed to U.S. District Court. The recent settlement was agreed to during a June 10 hearing, presided over by Judge Joan A. Lefkow.
In addition to naming the school as a defendant, Ledbetter’s suit also named Athletic Director John Stelzer, and the school’s former principal, Nathan Rouse, as defendants. According to Thomas Cronin, Ledbetter’s attorney, the lawsuit originally sought damages in excess of $50,000 from the school district after he alleged his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated. It turns out, Ledbetter is a recovering addict, something he believes was the reason why he was “removed OPRF’s varsity baseball head coach after 17 years.”
According to court documents, Ledbetter claimed he had been “sober since 2017 after completing a treatment program to assist him with his dependency issues.” While he was completing treatment, OPRF “appointed an interim baseball head coach while he took a leave of absence.” About a month after returning from the treatment program, Ledbetter was leading summer workouts when “OPRF prepared and offered a renewed contract for Ledbetter to serve as Head Varsity Boys Baseball Coach for the 2017-18 season in late July of 2017.”
However, during the litigation process, the school denied the contract even existed. Additionally, both Rouse and Stelzer allegedly “required Ledbetter to apologize to the athletic department, his colleagues, coaches and assistants.” On top of that, on one occasion when he took a few days off for the flu, OPRF began asking him questions about his “movements during the school day,” and his colleagues were even “asked if he had engaged in illegal drug use.” The following week, when he returned from recovering from the flu, he was placed on administrative leave and was “required to take an immediate drug test.” Even though he claimed he passed the drug test, he “was told to resign before the results were in.”
As a result, he allegedly suffered “substantial damages as the result of Rouse and Stelzer’s unlawful actions, including the loss of his job as Head Varsity coach and the loss of other ancillary jobs, damage to his reputation, substantial economic loss, severe emotional distress, and other physical and mental injuries,” according to his suit.
Before the recent agreement, Stelzer and Rouse pushed back against the allegations and argued, “as individual defendants, that the ADA does not allow for liability against individuals who are not ’employers’ as defined by the act.” The added that “employers are defined by the ADA as a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 15 or more employees … and any ‘agent’ of such person, which, they argue, would clear them of Ledbetter’s claims that they violated the ADA.”