Employment discrimination bill seen as necessary by some, burdensome by others
While one Democratic lawmaker fights for House Bill 4572, major employer organizations say the legislation is bad for business.
Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) during a recent press conference stood with several organizations to support legislation that would impose employment discrimination penalties on businesses with less than 15 employees.
However, critics like the Illinois Chamber of Commerce (ICC), National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Illinois chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABCI) argue that HB 4572 would impose unnecessary burdens on small businesses throughout the state.
“All we ask is that Gov. Rauner sign HB 4572 to make discrimination illegal in the state of Illinois,” Guzzardi said.
While the NFIB said the bill was one of a handful in the past legislative session that would hurt small businesses in Illinois, the Associated Builders and Contractors Illinois Chapter have requested Rauner veto the bill.
When he embarked on the bill, Guzzardi said he had a startling revelation that in most small businesses in the state of Illinois it is perfectly legal to discriminate against employees on the basis of age, race, gender, disability status or religion.
“The Human Rights Act in Illinois only protects employees who work at businesses with 15 or more people,” Guzzardi said.
Laborers International Union of North America Midwest Region Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs Anna Koeppel said when Illinoisans go to work, they deserve to be treated fairly based on their abilities and qualifications.
“I urge the governor to sign this legislation to show that in Illinois, we really do believe in equality under the law for everyone,” Koeppel said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Equality Illinois Director of Public Policy Mike Ziri also urged Rauner to sign the amendment to advance human rights, particularly when LGBTQ rights are under attack by President Trump’s Administration, he said.
“When the next Supreme Court could particularly curtail civil rights, Illinois has once again — as we have done in the past — the opportunity to lead and show the rest of the country how it is done,” Ziri said.
Ziri said the deficiency in the law can be seen in statistics.
“In the 2015 Trans Survey, 15 percent of transgender Illinoisans reported losing a job because of their gender identity or gender expression,” he said.
Illinois National Organization for Women (NOW) President Michelle Fadeley touted that Illinois NOW is the largest grassroots feminist organization in the country.
“I am here today to make it clear it is unacceptable that discrimination is allowed in tens of thousands of employers across this state,” Fadeley said.
Fadeley said “egregiously outdated legislation” permits discrimination statewide but Cook County ordinances do not.
“This leaves a shocking number of between a quarter million and half million people outside of Cook County that are employed by businesses of fewer than 15 who are vulnerable to discrimination,” she said.
HB 4572 passed this spring with the House Labor and Commerce Committee moving it out at 18-10 after a short debate on April 10. The general assembly moved the bill further along with the House voting 64-37 on April 26 and the Senate voting 33-13 on May 16.
The bill now sits before Gov. Bruce Rauner for consideration.