Discrimination lawsuit says Pritzker campaign fired transgender woman for her gender ID

By Scott Holland and Jonathan Bilyk | Jan 18, 2019

Gov. JB Pritzker   By SecretName101 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

A transgender woman has filed a discrimination complaint against the campaign of newly inaugurated Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, saying she was fired for her gender identity.

Emma Todd filed a complaint Jan. 18 in federal court in Chicago, saying JB For Governor violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act “for discrimination based on sex” when a supervisor fired her from her role as a field organizer in late March. According to Todd’s complaint, she filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Sept. 22. The EEOC then notified her of her right to sue within 90 days.

Todd said she started working for the Pritzker campaign in August 2017 and performed ably through January 2018. Todd said she “received good evaluations and feedback on her work performance” and added there was nothing in her “employment file to indicate that she had performance problems on the job.”

She pegged the start of her problems to the February 2018 hiring of a new supervisor, Raynal Sands, who allegedly “viewed transgender identity as a sexual fetish, asked about transgender sexual habits in a prurient manner and stated that Ms. Todd was ‘the reason people don’t like transgender people.’ ”

In addition to “animus against transgender women,” Todd alleged, Sands also treated Todd differently from other employees, “highly scrutinized and criticized” her work performance and in March started telling other employees she planned to fire Todd, despite not using the campaign’s prescribed corrective action process.

“Ms. Sands did not take steps to address any performance concerns regarding Ms. Todd by engaging in formal counseling and feedback, written and/or final warning or suspension without pay,” in accordance with policy, Todd alleged. She further said her “work performance was not the type of performance that merited serious correction or criticism that would subject her to termination, but for illegal discrimination and/or unless illegal discrimination were a motivating factor.”

In alleging an illegal termination on grounds of sex, which includes “sex stereotyping,

gender, gender expression, gender identity and/or gender transition,” Todd said the campaign is responsible for “damages including but not limited to lost wages, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, damage to professional reputation, and other pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses.”

The complaint said Todd’s termination shows the campaign acted “with malice or reckless indifference” to Todd’s Title VII rights.

In addition to a jury trial, Todd wants the court to declare the campaign in violation of Title VII, to bar the campaign from terminating other transgender or transitioning employees, to make the campaign to train staff in equal employment regulations and to force the campaign to pay Todd damages.

Representing Todd in the matter are the Law Offices of Joanie Rae Wimmer, of Oak Park.

Neither representatives of the Pritzker campaign organization nor from the governor's office responded Friday evening to an email from the Cook County Record seeking a response. However, in other published reports, a Pritzker campaign spokesperson said Todd was fired "for cause" and "performance issues," and not because of her gender identity.

Todd’s lawsuit comes as lawyers for Pritzker, his campaign organization and newly inaugurated Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton are seeking to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit brought by a group of African American campaign workers who alleged they had been mistreated by supervisors within the campaign. They have alleged the campaign’s senior leaders ignored their requests for intervention.

However, in an argument filed Friday, lawyers for the Pritzker campaign again asked the judge to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs have yet to present any proof to back their assertions of mistreatment and discrimination.

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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