toro hb2161SPRINGFIELD — To safeguard working moms, caregivers and others from being overlooked in hiring decisions because of their responsibilities outside of work, State Senator Natalie Toro is championing legislation aimed at prohibiting employer discrimination based on family obligations.

“It is extremely unfair for employers to decide that someone cannot fulfill their duties because they have family obligations, with no proof that this has or would interfere with their capability to be a good employee,” said Toro (D-Chicago). “This gap in the Human Rights Act has allowed many Illinoisans to miss out on major career opportunities because of employers’ biases, and it is long past time to take a stand against these labor practices.” 

Currently, the Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on gender, race, sexuality and other characteristics, but does not protect people with family obligations. Family obligations include providing care for a family member, including young children, older adults and people with disabilities. This means if two employees of the same gender — one with a young child — vie for the same promotion and the employer selects the employee without children, citing concerns about time off for parenting duties, they will not be charged with discrimination because family obligations are an unprotected class.

To address this, House Bill 2161 would add family obligations to the list of protected classes in the Human Rights Act. This addition will help ensure fair treatment regardless of outside responsibilities, allowing employees to be judged for the merits of their work, not assumptions based on their home lives.

"No one should be forced to choose between providing care for their loved ones and keeping the paying job that they need to survive," said State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago). "Unfortunately, caregivers are all too often passed over for hiring or promotion, or unfairly terminated, because of the assumption that caregiving will hurt their job performance. That kind of discrimination should be illegal, and this bill will make sure it is."

House Bill 2161 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.