Despite more than 1,000 cases pending with an average wait time of four years to hear a discrimination case, the Illinois House voted [yesterday] to block the consolidation of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (HRC) into the Illinois Department of Human Rights (DHR).
“Madigan’s legislators have once again put politics ahead of policy blocking this consolidation,” Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said. “Justice delayed is justice denied, and Madigan’s legislators want to maintain the current broken system that can delay justice for years.”
Governor Rauner issued Executive Order 17-02 to expedite anti-discrimination cases brought to the HRC. The commission currently has a backlog of more than 1,000 cases. Due to the current structure, the average case takes more than four years from the initial filing to case resolution, with some languishing for more than seven years.
“The Illinois Human Rights Commission has a pending caseload of 1,000 Requests for Review with some serious cases lasting as long as 7 years within our system,” said HRC Chair Rose Mary Bombela-Tobias. “By blocking the Executive Order, the General Assembly has blocked a plan that would have allowed us to effectively utilize our shared resources by eliminating administrative redundancies between the Department and Commission, focusing resources on the backlog while keeping the independence and integrity of the system.”
The two agencies will be able to both investigate and address legal proceedings more quickly through consolidation. The consolidation would also preserve the independent appellate process set by the current statute by maintaining the functions of the Senate-confirmed HRC Commissioners. The City of Chicago, New York City, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota all use a similar structure. Additionally, this consolidation will save taxpayers half a million dollars in the first year alone.
“Blocking the Governor’s consolidation of DHR and HRC will continue to delay the independent investigative and adjudicatory process under the Illinois Human Rights Act and fails to offer any solutions to reduce the unacceptable backlog at the Commission,” said IDHR Acting Director Janice Glenn. “Maintaining the status quo of backlog and inefficiencies is a disservice to those who are seeking timely justice from unlawful discrimination.”
The Rauner Administration shared its intent to consolidate HRC into DHR with all four legislative caucuses, including the House Democrat Caucus, for feedback before issuing the Executive Order. House Democrats never addressed any concerns the caucus has now raised.