In a lawsuit that J.B. Pritzker For Govenor has called baseless, the Democratic gubernatorial campaign has been accused of racial discrimination and harassment by ten of his staffers. The staffers demanded $7.5 million to settle the claims, according to reports.
The lawsuit was announced Tuesday night and the staff members alleged they were hired to fill a race quota for to carry out race-related tasks such as “rounding up 40 black guys,” according to a WGN-TV report.
The staffers also said they have not been offered any meaningful opportunities for advancement and receive less favorable treatment compared to white employees, the WGN report said.
Pritzker’s campaign received a settlement offer letter on Friday, Oct. 5, with a list of demands. The letter, released by the campaign, said the offer would expire on Monday Oct. 8, and a lawsuit would be filed.
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Lawyers for the staffers demanded the campaign post all job openings in each office as well as send out electronic notifications to employees about the openings. The staffers also asked the campaign hire a chief diversity officer be hired within seven days, put in place an anti-discrimination policy, and conduct anti-discrimination training.
They also asked for $7.5 million in compensation for damages.
Pritzker, who is challenging Republican incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner, denied the allegations.
“To be clear, this is just not true. I am incredibly proud of our campaign, how diverse it is, and how inclusive our administration will be,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Pritzker’s running mate Juliana Stratton, who is black, defended the campaign and said a majority of its senior team is African American and almost 45 percent of the entire staff are people of color.
“When people feel like they have been harassed or discriminated against, they have the right to come forward and have their voices heard. In this case, we had a letter delivered to us asking for $7.5 million in 24 hours or they threatened legal action and to go to press. That’s not a good faith effort,” Statton said. “The incidents listed in this complaint are baseless and make offensive claims in regard to several members of our staff. We stand by our staff and that’s why we are not afraid to litigate this to the fullest extent of the law. I couldn’t be prouder to be on the ticket with J.B. and of the statewide, grassroots campaign we’ve built.”
During a news conference on Wednesday, Rauner said the lawsuit is “troubling.”
“I think it’s troubling, these allegations are serious. They need to be investigated. I think the people of Illinois deserve to know the truth about Pritzker’s actions,” Rauner said.
This lawsuit is the latest hurdle the Pritzker campaign has had to face.
In recent weeks Pritzker has had to answer questions about $330,000 in property tax benefits he received on a mansion he owned after toilets were removed during a renovation project. A Cook County inspector general has called the removal of the toilets a “scheme to defraud taxpayers.”