CHICAGOEquality Illinois urges Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign legislation that would extend Illinois' workplace non-discrimination protections to businesses of all sizes in the state and ensure all Illinoisans have access to the legal tools of justice when they experience employment discrimination.
Under current law, workers in businesses of 14 and fewer employees outside of Cook County can still be fired for being LGBTQ, a racial minority, a woman, because of their faith, and for other reasons based on their personal identities.
The Illinois General Assembly passed the important civil rights measure, House Bill 4572, ending that exclusion and extending protections to thousands more workers, with bipartisan support during the spring session. The bill was delivered to the governor's office on Thursday.
"At a time when anti-equality forces seek to establish licenses to discriminate and civil rights laws are under attack in state legislatures and courts across the country, Gov. Rauner should sign the bill without delay," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state's civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer ( LGBTQ ) people.
"Signing HB 4572 is the right thing to do and is consistent with our bipartisan values of fairness, justice, and the freedom to be who you are without burden or discrimination. With his signature, Gov. Rauner can send a powerful and unmistakable message that Illinois is best and strongest when state law protects all people from discrimination."
HB 4572, sponsored by state Rep. Will Guzzardi ( D-Chicago ) and state Sen. Cristina Castro ( D-Elgin ), seeks to ensure that all protected workers have access to the legal tools of justice that are provided by the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Illinois Human Rights Act, adopted in 1980, includes workplace protections that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, and other protected categories. Protections for LGBTQ people were added to the law in 2006. However, the law only applies to employers with 15 or more workers. HB 4572 would strengthen those protections by making the law apply to all businesses in Illinois.
"From our engagement with LGBTQ communities across the state, people tell us they continue to encounter discrimination in the workplace—from Carbondale to McHenry, Danville to Rock Island," Johnson said. "We must do better as a state."
According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, 15 percent of transgender people in Illinois who have ever been employed reported losing a job in their lifetime because of their gender identity or expression. In the year preceding the survey, 28 percent of those who held or applied for a job in Illinois during that year reported being fired, denied a promotion, or not hired for a job they applied for because of their gender identity or expression. Illinois respondents who had a job in the past year reported being verbally harassed, physically attacked, or sexually assaulted at work because of their gender identity or expression.
HB 4572 synchronizes the Illinois Human Rights Act with ordinances in Cook County and Chicago that already apply to employers with one or more employees. Thus, HB 4572 would have its biggest impact on workers outside of Cook County. That is important to LGBTQ working people and the families they support in communities across the Land of Lincoln. It would also put Illinois on equal footing with states, such as Iowa and Minnesota, whose laws that protect workers from discrimination include businesses with fewer than 15 employees.
Equality Illinois is calling on people throughout the state to contact Gov. Rauner's office and urge him to sign HB 4572. They can send a message to the governor at tinyurl.com/SignHB4572.
"While we have made great progress as a state in matters of equality, it's time for Illinois to ensure all workers have access to the tools of justice when they encounter discrimination in the workplace," Johnson said. "Gov. Rauner's signature on HB 4572 would continue Illinois' proud bipartisan tradition of advancing justice for historically marginalized communities."