SPRINGFIELD — Eight former state workers are suing the Rauner administration, saying they lost their jobs for political reasons.
All eight employees were laid off from the Illinois Department of Transportation and were among those Gov. Bruce Rauner said were illegally hired patronage workers under previous Democratic governors. When the eight were laid off in 2017, the administration said it was partly a case of “cleaning up past hiring mistakes and personnel practices.”
The employees, represented by Springfield attorneys Don Craven and Carl Draper, want their jobs back, as well as lost wages and benefits.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Springfield Friday. Plaintiffs in the case are Melissa Schaive, Mason McDaniel, Cindy Houlihan, Tim Henderson, Marianne Hankins, Kristen Chiaro, Patty Ambrose and Isauro Rivas.
Most of them worked in IDOT’s Traffic Safety Division. On April 21, 2017, all of them were reassigned to IDOT’s headquarters in Springfield. Still, they continued to do the same work and none was given a different job description.
The lawsuit said all of them continued to receive at least acceptable job evaluations until July 12, 2017, when all of them were notified they were being laid off because there wasn’t enough work for them to perform.
“The assertion that each plaintiff was laid off for lack of work is a pretense to terminate them,” the lawsuit says. “The real reason for the termination of these plaintiffs was that they were employed by the prior administration (under then Governor Patrick Quinn who was a member of the Democratic Party) or that they refused to become affiliated with the Rauner administration.”
The lawsuit contends the layoffs were part of a deliberate “attempt to deprive the plaintiffs of their employment in retaliation for not being supporters of Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Republican Party.”
The Executive Inspector General issued a report in 2014 that found staff assistants at IDOT were illegally hired and then moved into positions that were protected from patronage firings or were give jobs to do that had no connection to their job descriptions.
The Rauner administration did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.