Monthly Archives: July 2017

Workers’ Comp Reform Left Out Of Illinois Budget, Concerning Businesses

Putting a halt on legislative back-and-forth, Illinois lawmakers have voted to approve a new state budget. But some critics point out that the plan has ignored workers’ compensation reform. The Chicago Tribune reports that the vote was instated to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto on the budget.

In 2013 alone, there were 917,100 occupational injuries that resulted in an average of eight days missed work per person. This makes workers’ compensation an ever-present part of state legislation — though it may be taking a back seat in Illinois.

According to Chicago Tribune, the final budget came out to $36.1 billion and increased the corporate income tax to 7% and the personal rate to 4.95%. Toff Maisch, CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, told Chicago Tribune that it’s problematic for the budget to skip over rising property taxes and increased workers’ compensation insurance costs.

“The fact that there are no reforms at all is an incredible missed opportunity,” he said.

Robert Reed echoed this thought in his recent Chicago Tribune column, stating that this decision undermines a long-standing battle for better workers’ compensation policies in Illinois.

“The business withdrawal is another lost opportunity to sensibly revamp this complex, publicly backed structure that needs to bring costs down while still properly serving those who are legitimately injured on the job,” he said. “While workers’ compensation changes never come easy in the Illinois General Assembly, there was hope earlier this year that pro-business Republicans and pro-labor Democrats would lay the groundwork for bipartisan compromise.”

According to Chicago Tribune, Gov. Rauner is a supporter of workers’ comp rights and other business policies, making him a favorable candidate for CEOs and small business owners. While the budget did not include new workers’ compensation provisions, Chicago Tribune reports that two workers’ comp bills passed the General Assembly this legislative session. One of the bills designates $10 million for a government-funded insurance company to compete with private insurance companies. The bills are moving on to Gov. Rauner.

However, business interest groups say these bills don’t go far enough in reducing insurance costs for business owners. When someone is injured driving a company car, for example, their company can face steep costs. The three most common causes of car accidents are distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding, carrying great risk for any commercial driver — and potentially a great financial burden.

As for a solution going forward, Reed suggests a more realist approach.

“Illinois should not have to gut workers’ rights to remain competitive with neighboring Indiana or other Midwest states,” he writes. “At the same time, realistic safeguards against negligent employers and systemic abuse, along with more checks and balances on who gets workers’ compensation, and for how long, are instrumental to the state’s economic health.”

Lawsuit Claims Discrimination at Chicago Water Department

Working at a municipal water department isn’t always easy. There are hazards when working in the confined spaces, and the occasional loud noises reaching over 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage. But employees at the Chicago Water Department faced a different type of danger in recent years.

This month, seven employees at the Chicago Water Department filed a class action lawsuit against the department over workplace harassment. In the suit, the plaintiffs claim they had been denied promotions, subjected to racist remarks, and sexually harassed on the basis of their race.

“In 2017, many black people at the Water Department still cannot go to work and make a living without being subject to a hostile work environment,” Derrick Edmond, one of the plaintiffs and an engineer with the department, said to CBS Chicago. “I feel less than the man that I am when I’m talked to disrespectfully.”

That disrespect, according to the lawsuit, included use of the N-word and terms like you people. And when Edmond spoke out, the lawsuit alleges, he faced harsh discipline.

While there are around 16,000 municipal wastewater treatment facilities operating in the United States today, few have faced more scandal than those under the Chicago Water Department, which saw its Commissioner, Barrett Murphy, forced to resign in May.

Murphy’s resignation came after an investigation into the department turned up racist and sexist emails. Two other resignations followed closely after; William Bresnahan, the agency’s managing deputy commissioner, and Paul Hansen, a district superintendent of water distribution.

A spokesperson for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking to the Chicago Tribune said at the time, “We were made aware of an IG investigation into the culture at the water department. The mayor acted quickly and decisively, asking for the commissioner’s resignation and appointing a new commissioner to lead the department forward and change the department’s culture.”

Unfortunately for the city, the action did not come soon enough. Of the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, two are women and five are men. While the number of plaintiffs is relatively small so far, attorneys have said there are at least 30 others employees with similar claims

“This lawsuit falls on the heels of our mayor of our city having to acknowledge that the culture of the Water Department is indeed hostile and abusive,” William C. Martin, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told CBS Chicago. “This is the next step in this admission process.”

Cop Who Beat Handcuffed African American Woman Also Owns Several Racist Websites

Another day, another example of police brutality. In this case, the victim lived to tell the tale and will even get a settlement from the city of Chicago. In an incident from 2014, Patassa Johnson alleged Sgt. George Granias beat her while she was handcuffed at the 11th District police station. Johnson and her lawyers filed a federal lawsuit, an act which subsequently revealed that Granias was the owner of several websites with racist and offensive domain names.

According to an FBI report, there was a 3.9% increase in the estimated number of violent crimes in the U.S. in 2015, and over the last few years, the nation’s eyes have been fixed on violent events between police departments and people of color.

For many, Johnson’s story is all too familiar. The suit alleges that Johnson was pulled over on suspicion of a DUI. Although she denied the charges (and they were later dropped), Johnson was handcuffed, put in the back of a squad car, and driven to the police station. It was there, Johnson’s lawyers say, that Granias grabbed her and brought her inside the station. Then, “Defendant Granias beat [Johnson] while [Johnson] was in handcuffs.” Johnson required medical attention for the injuries she sustained during this time.

“She was beat up at the police station by a Chicago police sergeant because she was a vocal black woman,” said Brendan Shiller, Johnson’s lead attorney, to The Root.

While Johnson’s legal team was preparing for the case, they found something curious: a site called n**gadown.com, purchased by Granias.

“We came across that URL and said what the hell is this?” Shiller told The Daily Beast. Each month, over 100 billion global web searches are conducted, and many people wrongly assume they can operate anonymously online.

Although the site was blank, because it showed up in Google search results, this suggested to Shiller that Granias actually launched a website after buying the domain name.

“He made it live and accessible to the public,” said Shiller. “You can create a website, but Google wouldn’t know about it unless you make it live and accessible.”

The team subsequently found other domain named owned by Granias, including n**gaguns.com, murdertech.com, deathcomescalling.com, necroarmy.com, supremegirl.com, naomiscarlet.com, conditionaldating.com, patquinnsucks.com (a dig at former Illinois governor Pat Quinn), and several others.

On the day CBS Chicago reported the discovery, an individual who identified himself as George Granias requested that n**gadown.com remove the page that listed him as the owner of the site.

“Please remove my info from n**gadown.com,” read the post. “I haven’t owned it in years and your information is false.”

The website is no longer active, but Granias’ registration is. It will not expire until the end of 2017.

In the meantime, Johnson and her legal team reached a settlement with the city, according to Shiller. The amount is still pending approval from the City Council, but the city is expected to pay $185,000 to Johnson. However, she says the compensation isn’t the same as justice.

“He needs to be fired,” Johnson said. “If he’s fired, then I’m happy because I know he will not be able to do it to anyone else.”

While the Chicago PD has reportedly launched an internal investigation into the websites, Granias is still employed as a full-time officer with the department.