Ex-Marian Central Catholic superintendent claims 'retaliatory' firing after health insurance comment

Former Marian Central Catholic High School Superintendent Steve Baldwin has alleged that the agency that oversees the school fired him in retaliation for bad-mouthing the company insurance plan, court documents show.

Baldwin was fired in June 2017 and is in the process of suing the Catholic Diocese of Rockford, which oversees the private Woodstock high school, for wrongful termination and breach of contract.

In court documents filed Nov. 29, Baldwin claims that the diocese was “critical of and clearly bothered by” statements Baldwin made to a teacher about the diocese’s self-funded health insurance plan, court documents show.

A teacher had emailed Baldwin and was worried because a family member had been denied an expensive medical test under the plan, according to court documents.

“The teacher’s email ... to [Baldwin] provided an example of a denial of benefits that was gender/sex-related,” the complaint reads. “The communication provided details as to a medical test that was deemed necessary by a physician due to the woman’s advanced maternal age but was denied coverage.”

In the denial, the diocese claimed that the test was unnecessary, according to the complaint.

Baldwin told the teacher he would look into it, and said the diocese “should be ashamed of themselves.”

Diocese of Rockford Superintendent of Schools Michael Kagan brought up the email conversation at the June 11 meeting where Baldwin was fired, according to the complaint.

In Baldwin’s termination letter, Kagan said Baldwin had created a negative view of the diocese in the workplace by making disparaging remarks about the agency to a subordinate, according to the complaint.

By law, Illinois employees have the legal right to discuss pay and benefits with each other under the Illinois Equal Pay Act. Employers are not allowed to fire or discriminate against employees who choose to exercise the right or “interfere with, retrain or deny” that right, according to court documents.

The diocese claims that the act only applies to gender-based pay or benefit disparities, and it is seeking that the claim be dismissed, court documents show.

“[Baldwin’s] use of the Equal Pay Act ... is an unfounded stretch of the purpose and intent of the EPA,” the diocese’s claim reads.

The agency alleges that Baldwin violated his employment agreement in the conversation with a teacher.

Other factors, such as a technology purchase miscommunication, have been brought to light in the lawsuit.

McHenry County Judge Thomas Meyer is scheduled to consider the dismissal of the retaliatory discharge claim at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the McHenry County Administration Building.

Baldwin’s attorney, Tom Zanck, declined to provide details about the claim until after the hearing.

The diocese also declined to comment on the details of its case, but it said the agency “remains steadfast in its decision and the grounds on which the decision was made to terminate Mr. Baldwin’s employ.”

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