Does Jesse Jackson Discriminate?

Does Jesse Jackson Discriminate?

Jesse Jackson got sued a couple of weeks ago and it surprisingly got very little traction in the media.  Or maybe it's not surprising. 

An employee of Jackson's civil rights organization, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is claiming that he was harassed, discriminated against, and fired for being gay. According to published reports, the man was told he was being fired for lack of funding, although there are reports that someone else was hired in his place. The city's Commission on Human Relations is investigating the complaint.

I don't know Jesse Jackson although like many others I've seen a lot of his hypocrisy play out in the media. Full disclosure, I did refer someone to an attorney about two years ago to sue Jesse.  That case is pending.  It has nothing to do with my opinions on him although I did hear a hilarious story about how he acted at a deposition.  Either way, it's funny to me when someone who alleges to champion civil rights gets sued for discrimination. 

In addition to the irony of the situation, it's an interesting case. Although we generally think of discrimination as illegal in the workplace, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees is allowed under federal law (there is no law against it). About half of the states, including Illinois, have made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, as have some cities, such as Chicago. But if you work in a state doesn't have one of these laws, it's perfectly legal for your employer to fire you because you're gay.  Fortunately that's not the case here.

Even though LGBT employees are technically protected under Illinois law, a lawsuit isn't easy. These cases can be an uphill battle. Not many lawyers have experience in this area, as it's a fairly new law. Also, discrimination is hard to prove. If you were fired for an illegal reason, you can bet your employer will swear it was something else - your attitude, productivity, tardiness, or a lack of funding, that led to your termination.  Knowing in your heart that you were fired for discrimination and proving it are two separate things.

That said, the man suing Jesse Jackson may actually have a decent case. It sounds like the discrimination was pretty blatant, but of course all I really know about the case is what I read in the paper so who knows for sure.

An interesting side note to this is the fact that the lawyer the plaintiff hired is surprisingly young for a high profile case. He's only been in practice a few years (since 2008), and his focus is on estate planning and appellate work, according to his LinkedIn page. It doesn't even appear that he ever worked as a lawyer at another firm to gain experience. There's probably a reason why this guy was hired, but it doesn't make much sense to me on its face.

If you are serious about suing someone for discrimination, negligence, or anything else, you're cheating yourself if you don't hire an attorney with relevant experience (and many years of it). It can make or break your case. Even if your uncle is an excellent criminal defense attorney, if you want a divorce, hire someone else. And don't hire your childhood friend, who is now a tax attorney, to handle your workers' comp claim. Even if it saves you money in fees, it could cost you your case.

Like the rest of the public, I don't pay a ton of attention to cases after I read about them in the paper.  I'll certainly be following this one though and hope that reporters will give it the attention it deserves.

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