Equality Illinois Applauds Gov. Pritzker’s Approval of Legislation Strengthening Illinois Non-Discrimination Protections in the Workplace

Equality Illinois Applauds Gov. Pritzker’s Approval of Legislation Strengthening Illinois Non-Discrimination Protections in the Workplace

As anti-equality forces are striving to turn back the clock on non-discrimination protections across the country, Illinois’ foundational civil rights law will now protect more workers from discrimination because of legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Pritzker, said Equality Illinois, the state’s civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.

“Thank you, Gov. Pritzker, for signing House Bill 252 and sending the powerful and unmistakable message that Illinois is strongest when state law protects all workers from discrimination,” said Michael Ziri, Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois. “For the LGBTQ community, the governor’s action today comes at a critical time. At the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court on October 8 will consider whether federal civil rights law protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination. And just a few days ago, the Trump Administration proposed a broad policy that would allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, and religious minorities. But Illinois is moving forward, and our Human Rights Act is strengthened thanks to the governor’s action today.”

Sponsored by state Rep. Will Guzzard (D-Chicago) and state Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) and initiated by the Laborers International Union Midwest Region, HB 252 applies the Illinois Human Rights Act’s employment non-discrimination protections to employers with one or more employees. Previously, the state law only applied to employers with 15 or more workers.

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, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other protected categories.

“We thank Rep. Guzzardi and Sen. Castro for leading the legislative charge to protect all workers in Illinois from employment discrimination,” Ziri said. “Like all fair-minded Illinoisans, the sponsors of the bill know that fidelity to our shared values of equality and fairness are how we build a better Illinois.”

“We also recognize and applaud the Laborers International Union Midwest Region for advancing this bill and for affirming LGBTQ people,” Ziri said. “We know that organized labor has always championed the civil rights of all people, including LGBTQ Illinoisans.”

According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, 15 percent of transgender people in Illinois who have 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.

“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,” Ziri said. “HB 252 is a critical tool to advance justice in all workplaces – regardless of the number of employees. Our right to live and work as our authentic selves should not be based on an employer’s headcount. We look forward to working with the dedicated team at the Illinois Department of Human Rights as they implement this law and advance justice.”

HB 252 synchronizes the Illinois Human Rights Act with civil rights ordinances in Cook County that already apply to employers with one or more employees. Thus, HB 252 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 employment non-discrimination laws apply to businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

HB 252 takes effect on July 1, 2020.

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