Even after the Illinois General Assembly approved legislation meant to tackle the backlog of discrimination cases before the Illinois Human Rights Commission, Gov. Bruce Rauner is putting forth his own plan.
In an Executive Order filed last week, the governor calls for the commission to develop a plan within 60 days to reduce the backlog and achieve more transparency. But critics say it lacks specifics on how to get through the more than 1,000 cases pending that deal with claims of discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other factors.
Carl Draper, an employment and civil rights attorney with the Law Office of FeldmanWasser in Springfield, said the executive order only adds more planning and no action. “It spends two pages talking about the problem and giving it the attention that it needs. And then it has one page that simply results in another study. Public officials can study things to death, but concrete steps need to be taken.”
Draper also said the governor’s approach doesn’t immediately address the group’s staffing issues. Currently, the commission members hold part-time positions and meet a few times per year, he said. “When you do that, you have a very serious risk that backlogs simply cannot be addressed in that number of meetings annually.”
The General Assembly approved a plan this year to restructure how the commission works — including turning some part-time staff into full-time to streamline caseloads. The commission currently has 13 part-time staff members; the changes would turn that to 7 full-time. Critics say they hope Rauner considers this a part of his executive order and signs it into law. Rauner’s office has yet to say if he would go along with that approach, noting that the measure has not been sent to his desk for his review.