Chicago, IL

Chicago contract quotas struck down

November 03, 2000
A federal judge has ruled unconstitutional a Cook Countylaw requiring that at least 40 percent of county construction contracts go to minority- and women-ownedbusinesses. 
     Judge John Grady ruled Thursday that preferences for minorities and women violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
     The challenge to the preferences was brought in 1996 by the BuildersAssociation of Greater Chicago, a trade group comprising some of the city's largest commercial builders. 

Gay group plans to lobby schools on Boy Scouts

October 06, 2000
A gay-rights advocacy group plans tolobby school districts across the country to stop sponsoring Boy Scout troops unlessthe organization reverses its ban on gays. 
     The initiative is a centerpiece of the Gay, Lesbian and StraightEducation Network's annual conference, which began Friday in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. 
     M.K. Cullen, the group's public policy director, said the goal is toend the "unique and special access" the Boy Scouts get to schools. 

Rights groups sue lenders for predatory practices

September 26, 2000
A consortium of fair housing, legal and civil rights organizations filed suit (Case Nos. 97CH12802; 99CH7566; and 98CH8721; Circuit Court of Cook County, September 26, 2000) against three banking institutions for predatory lending practices, demanding a halt to current foreclosures, a change in loan terms and appropriated amages (damages vary based upon the size of the loan).
      The groups are charging sub-prime lenders and servicers Bank of New York, Bankers Trust Company and IMC Mortgage Company with violations of the Illinois Interest Act, a law that protects consumers against lending fraud and deception.
      The consortium includes the law firm of Meites, Mulder, Burger & Mollica, the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, and the National Center on Poverty Law.
      ``Predatory lending is on the rise in the Chicago area, and consumers must have some form of protection,'' said Thomas Meites, Meites, Mulder, Burger & Mollica. ``When you look at the terms of some ofthese loans and see that the monthly loan payments are 70 percent or even 100 percent of the borrower's monthly income, it's obvious the lender is interested in foreclosing on the property and selling it.''

Rosa Parks wins domain name

September 20, 2000
In 1955, Rosa Parks fought for her space on a bus. This time, she was battling for her spot on the Internet.
      Rosa Parks, 87, won domain name rights to www.rosaparks.com, a site created by a man who planned to auction it off, according to Parks' Chicago lawyer, Oscar Alcantara.
      Alcantara said that he sent a cease and desist letter to Lester Shawof Tulsa, Okla., after which Shaw agreed to give up the domain name.
      Alcantara said Tuesday that Shaw violated a new federal law banning "cybersquatting," the pre-empting of Internet domain names with the aim of selling those names to companies or people with trademark associations to them.

Advocates lose employment case with testers

September 18, 2000
Two women who applied for jobs to test whether a security firm discriminated against minorities have lost their lawsuit, a key federal case that asked whether it's legal to lie to an employer in an effort to document wrongdoing.
      JK Guardian Security Services did not engage in biased hiring practices by denying employment to the two black applicants who were paid representatives of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, a jury decided Friday.
      "As the first case of this kind ever to go to trial, the jury sent a clear message that claims of discrimination will need more than just the fact that African-Americans did not receive job offers," said Douglas Drach, an attorney representing JK Guardian.
      Testing opponents say one or two visits to an employer are insufficient to prove bias.
      But civil rights advocates say testers – long used to document housing discrimination – are necessary to investigate employers. Most testing is done by private groups with financial support from government agencies.

Complaint over company's English-only policy settled

September 02, 2000
Eight former employees of a metal-casting and assembly plant have settled their federal civil rights lawsuit over the company's "English-only" policy.
      Watlow Batavia Inc. will pay the eight Spanish-speaking workers more than $190,000 total to settle their lawsuit filed last year by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said Friday.
      According to the EEOC, English-only policies are legal in cases when employers can prove a "business necessity," such as in an air-traffic control tower.
      The former Watlow employees alleged that the company's policy, imposed in 1997, was discriminatory and unfairly disciplined Hispanic workers for speaking Spanish to co-workers.
      One worker was fired after greeting a co-worker with "buenos dias," which is Spanish for "good morning," the EEOC said.

Tourette's sufferer receives $385K in settlement

August 17, 2000
The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. announced today that a settlement has been reached in the highly publicized Fair Housing Act lawsuit filed on behalf of Tourette's Syndrome sufferer Jeffrey Marthon and his wife Maureen Kilty against the Maple Grove Condominium Association in Downers Grove, Illinois and the condominium property manager, Alpha Property Management, Inc. of Carol Stream, Illinois.
     Under the general terms of the settlement, the Condominium Association and Property Manager agree immediately to pay $310,000 to Mr. Marthon, Ms. Kilty and their attorneys, and to take measures to prevent and eradicate discrimination against any current or future resident at Maple Grove or any property managed by Alpha on the basis of the individual's actual or perceived disability. The defendants also agreed to pay an additional $75,000 to Mr. Marthon and Ms. Kilty, who have expressed an interest in moving from Maple Grove, if efforts to secure a buyer for the condominium are unsuccessful.
     Tourette's Syndrome is an inherited, neurological condition that causes a person to make involuntary muscle movements and vocal sounds, called “tics.” Mr. Marthon, who was diagnosed with Tourette's as a child, has lived with his wife in a condominium at Maple Grove since 1986. In the fall of 1998, after the then acting President of the Condominium Association's Board moved into the unit directly above the Marthons and began complaining about Mr. Marthon, the Board threatened Mr. Marthon and Ms. Kilty with fines and the possibility of eviction if the tics continued. The Board ultimately sent the Marthons a letter terminating their rights as unit owners at Maple Grove and filed a lawsuit in DuPage County to evict them on the ground that Mr. Marthon's Tourette's constituted a “nuisance” to other residents.

Death sentences profiles racial gap

July 24, 2000
White defendants in federal capital cases are more likely than blacks to negotiate plea bargains that spare their lives, according to an analysis of 146 cases prosecuted since Congress reinstated capital punishment. 
    Sixty percent of white defendants avoided capital punishment through a negotiated settlement in cases in which the Justice Department chose to pursue the death penalty. Typically, those plea bargains result in either life sentences or long prison terms. 
    For black defendants in those cases, 41 percent reached an agreement with prosecutors, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, a private group that receives federal funding to track federal capital cases. 

Chicago suburb makes rule against racial profiling

July 12, 2000
A Chicago suburb has agreed to adopt guidelines to safeguard against racial profiling by police in an agreement civil rights officials hail as a model for the nation.
     The guidelines were contained in a consent decree attached to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two black Highland Park residents who said they were victims of unwarranted police stops.
     The town agreed to never allow race to be a factor in stopping motorists, to install monitoring devices in every patrol vehicle, increase diversity training for officers and tell citizens how they can file complaints.
     Highland Park, about 20 miles north of Chicago, also agreed to record the race of every person stopped by an officer, and to compile that information at least annually, making it available to the public. 

Court rules for testers in employment case

July 06, 2000
Civil rights workers who apply for jobs to test whether employers discriminate against minorities in hiring may sue those who show bias, an appeals court has ruled.
      The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a lower-court decision that threw out such a lawsuit on grounds that two such testers had no standing to sue because they didn't want the job for which they applied.
      The appeals court said testers have standing to sue under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the provision that outlaws hiring discrimination based on race.
      ``We find no support in Title VII for a requirement that a job applicant must have a bona fide interest in working for a particular employer if she is to make out a ... case of employment discrimination,'' a three-judge panel said.
      The opinion sends the case back to U.S. District Judge Suzanne B. Conlon for trial.

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