Crabtree was employed by the City in the Department of Water
and Sewers from 1970 until January, 1981 at which time he
became ill and took a disability leave. When he was released
from his doctor's care in August, 1981, he attempted to return
to work by obtaining a letter to that effect from Eugene
Sawyer, Alderman of the 6th Ward. While plaintiff met with the
Commissioner of the Department, he was never rehired.
In May, 1982, plaintiff applied for unemployment
compensation. At that time, he alleges, he was informed for
the first time that he had been terminated. Thereafter,
plaintiff alleges that he contacted the Commissioner's office
and was informed that his status would be looked into. When he
received no response from that office, plaintiff contacted his
present counsel who, on November 17, 1982, wrote to the City's
Corporation Counsel. When this avenue proved to be fruitless,
a lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County,
Illinois. That suit, which had been filed on January 28, 1983,
was dismissed on September 19, 1983. On October 25, 1983 a
civil rights suit was filed in this District. The case was
assigned to Judge Grady who on March 28, 1984 dismissed
plaintiff's suit with leave to refile as a Shakman petition
assigned directly to this Court.
The City argues that because a substantial period of time
passed between plaintiff's termination and the filing of a
lawsuit, the instant suit should be barred by laches.
As this Court has previously noted:
A decision on the issue of laches rests within
the sound discretion of the trial court.
Baker Manufacturing Co. v. Whitewater Manufacturing
Co., 430 F.2d 1008, 1009 (7th Cir. 1970). This
discretion, while broad, is not unfettered by
appropriate standards. Goodman v. McDonnell Douglas
Corp., 606 F.2d 800, 804 (8th Cir. 1979). However,
where, as here, a case involves government
employment, the court is bound by public policy
which requires the prompt assertion of the
employee's rights so that government service is
disturbed as little as possible and two salaries
are not paid for a single service. Lingenfelter v.
Keystone Consolidated Industries, Inc.,
691 F.2d 339, 340 (7th Cir. 1982); Baker Manufacturing
Co., 430 F.2d at 1011-5.
Gurgone v. City of Chicago,