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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Transgender field organizer sues Pritzker campaign
by Matt Simonette
2019-01-23

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A transgender woman who worked as a field organizer for the JB for Governor campaign, the organization whose work won J.B. Pritzker the governorship in 2018, is suing the campaign in federal court, alleging that she was fired on the basis of her sex, among other factors.

The plaintiff, Emma Todd, filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division on Jan. 18. Todd had been employed by the campaign since Aug. 2017 and, according to her lawsuit, she had no cause for disciplinary action from her employers.

But the lawsuit alleges that Todd's supervisor—who was brought on in Feb. 2018— "viewed transgender identity as a sexual fetish" and additionally asked about transgender persons' sexual habits in a "prurient manner." The supervisor also said that Todd "was the reason people don't like transgender people."

The supervisor instigated Todd's termination in March 2018, without corrective action or due process set forth in the organization's employment manuals, the lawsuit alleges.

Campaign officials did not immediately reply to a request from Windy City Times for comment, but they told the Capitol Fax blog on Jan. 18 that Todd was fired for cause for performance reasons, noting that she'd had poor professional relations with campaign volunteers and had refused to remove a sexually explicit online work posting. That report also indicated that a downsizing was a reason.

Todd alleges that she was not informed of any infractions until her termination, according to her attorney, New York City-based Jillian T. Weiss, who was previously executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.

"She was hesitant to pursue this but she felt, after hearing from many people who were there with her at the job, that this was an unjust termination," added Weiss. "She felt very badly about that, and she felt that this was something that should not be ignored. She spoke to me about it, and it took quite a long time for us to work through the ins-and-outs of filing such a lawsuit. This was a very difficult decision for her, particularly because she is so strongly in favor of Gov. Pritzker and the work that he has promised to do, and is beginning to do."

"I worked hard on this campaign and loved my job," said Todd in a Jan. 18 statement. "I was blindsided by my termination. I wholeheartedly supported and voted for Governor JB Pritzker and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton to end Bruce Rauner's heartless administration. JB and Juliana will bring economic stability after more than two years without a state budget under Rauner. They will also protect services for underserved communities that Rauner has hurt. This lawsuit does not change my support for these highly qualified people. I am bringing this lawsuit because transgender people, like all Americans, deserve the same chance to earn a living, free from discrimination."

Weiss added that, "This is part of what happens with anti-transgender discrimination. Though there is goodwill on the part of the employer, there are things that happen on the shop floor that don't conform with their policies.Those things need to be vigorously addressed."

Capitol Fax's report is at bit.ly/2Mwpkvy .


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