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New Lawsuit Alleges Racial Discrimination at the University of Illinois

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Employees and employers alike in the Chicago area should know about a recent class action lawsuit filed against the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC).

The case, Brown v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, alleges employment discrimination on the basis of race under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law, and the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, a state law. The plaintiffs in the case specifically allege that racial discrimination and harassment are part of the University of Illinois’s “standard operating procedure. The case is likely to highlight the harms of racial discrimination in employment.  And also underscore the steps that employers must take in drafting and enforcing a non-discrimination policy.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs cite overt and pervasive incidents of racial discrimination and harassment on the basis of race.

For example, the complaint describes threats of racial violence. Including the appearance of nooses, KKK paraphernalia, confederate flags, racist graffiti, and swastikas. Other overt acts of racism, according to the complaint, include racial slurs. Which the plaintiffs allege other employees used against them. Moreover, the complaint also alleges that racial discrimination persisted in more subtle forms. Such as black employees subjected to disrespect from supervisors and coworkers. As well as, being subject to excessive monitoring and scrutinizing from supervisors.

The University has a written non-discrimination policy.

However, as the recent lawsuit alleges, the policy only prohibits racial harassment if it is “sufficiently severe or pervasive”. Is “objectively offensive,” and “unreasonably interferes with, denies. Or if it limits a person’s ability to participate or benefit from employment opportunities, assessment or status at the University.” Accordingly, the plaintiffs argue that the non-discrimination policy permits a hostile work environment that violates both federal and state law.

According to Arthur Ehrlich and Jonathan C. Goldman, Chicago employment discrimination lawyers, “harassment can be a form of employment discrimination under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003; when it creates a hostile work environment. An employee has a right to file a claim when facing discrimination on the basis of race.”

It is important to note that this lawsuit comes at a point in which Illinois legislators recently amended the Equal Pay Act of 2003. Which prohibits employers from discrimination against African American employees by paying African American employees lower wages for substantially similar work. This recent change to the law; along with the recent lawsuit against UIUC; should make clear that employment discrimination, on the basis of race, is taken very seriously in Illinois.