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Monday, July 11, 2016

Can a City Enforce its Human Rights Ordinance Against a Park District?

In a case of interest to both our municipal and park district clients, the Illinois Court of Appeals Fourth District recently ruled that the City of Decatur may enforce its Human Rights ordinance against the Decatur Park District.  Decatur Park District v. City of Decatur, 2016 IL App (4th)150699

The Park District had argued that the City had no authority over employment decisions of the Park District.  Allowing the City to proceed against the Park District “would interfere with its authority pursuant to the Park District Code to manage its own affairs.” However, the court rejected this argument relying on a First District case finding that Cook County had authority to enforce its Human Rights Act against a school district (Bremen Community High School District No 228 v. Cook County Commission on Human Rights, 2012 IL App (1st) 112177).

The court said the legislature did not provide park districts with authority to discriminate or retaliate against their employees for filing a complaint alleging discrimination.  Therefore the city does not interfere with park district authority or frustrate its core functions.  The court further stated that local governments were given authority under the Illinois Human Rights Act to police discrimination (775 ILCS 5/7-108A “A political subdivision, ….may create a local department or commission ….to promote the purposes of this Act…and secure for all individuals within the jurisdiction of the political subdivision…freedom from unlawful discrimination…”)

In the Decatur case, the Park District sought the arrest of an employee for surreptitiously recording a conversation with her supervisor.  The employee alleged the District only sought her arrest because she had recently filed a discrimination complaint against the district.  The Decatur Human Rights officer found probable cause to believe the District had retaliated against the employee for filing a discrimination complaint.

The Decatur case helps resolve the legal relationship between municipal and park district authority in relation to Human Rights matters.  The case also illustrates the need to consult with counsel when faced with employment discrimination matters.  

Post Authored by Steve Mahrt, Ancel Glink


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