The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Jesse Jackson Employee Says Fired for Being Gay

Tommy Bennett has filed a lawsuit against Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition claiming that he was fired for being gay. The former Jesse Jackson employee was an organizer and Jackson's travel assistant from 2007 to 2009.

According to his lawsuit, Bennett says that he was given a letter in December 2009, telling him that he was being let go due to a lack of funding, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. However, soon after he was laid off, Bennett discovered that the organization hired another employee to take his spot.

Bennett now believes the layoff notice was simply a ruse to get rid of him due to his sexual orientation. It was not reported what facts Bennett had to support this claim, but Bennett sued for sexual orientation discrimination.

Bennett brought a state claim filing his lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. As you may know, most employment discrimination lawsuits are brought in federal court due to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s enforcement of these laws and the fact that most anti-discrimination laws are federal laws.

However, there is no federal law that protects employees from discrimination due to sexual orientation. So an employer may fire an employee simply for being gay under federal law.

Fortunately for Bennett, there is a state law in Illinois, the Illinois Human Rights Act, that prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. So, the state law fills in what the federal law ignores — equal protection for gay employees.

Tommy Bennett, the former Jesse Jackson employee, has sued the PUSH coalition claiming that he was fired for being gay. Fortunately for Bennett, he lives in a state where the law protects gay people from discrimination at work.

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