Chicago taxis may seem annoying but studies of urban areas show that cabs reduce traffic congestion and allow some city dwellers the luxury of not owning an automobile. In July of this year, the City of Chicago made several changes to the regulations and rules regarding taxis and drivers. These include restricting continuous hours driven to twelve and holding taxi cab companies responsible for a driver’s moving violations. The City also put incentives in place to persuade taxi companies and drivers to invest in ‘green’ cabs that run on natural gas as well as selling a percentage of medallions to wheel-chair accessible cabs. Cab drivers also received some rewards with the City replacing the temporary fuel surcharge with a permanent $1 fee increase. Another change in the fee structure is that cabbies can now charge a $50 fee to riders who vomit in their cabs. Cab drivers are also watching a complaint filed in Illinois Northern District Court against Uber, a company that allows riders to request a ride and pay for it via a smart phone app. The suit, filed on behalf of a number of Chicago based cab and limo companies, accused Uber of violating state and local laws concerning fair practices, public safety, and consumer protection.
On September 28th, 2012 Cook County Associate Judge Thomas Donnelly threw out the arrests of Occupy Chicago demonstrators who had been charged with violation of the City of Chicago’s overnight park curfew. He went on to declare that the curfew violates the First Amendment. He reasoned that the selective enforcement of the curfew, as well as police harassment in the days preceding the arrests, supported the concept that the City had discriminated against the defendants based upon political views. But Judge Donnelly went on to write that curfew itself violated the Illinois and U.S. constitutions right to free speech and assembly. Mixing historical references to political rallies from the time of Abraham Lincoln with present day examples of President Obama’s election night rally, Donnelly quoted city leaders who, in 1835, declared that Grant Park should be “reserved for all time to come for a public square, accessible at all times to the people.” He continued with the concept of parks providing a forum for free speech and that restricting access must be narrowed to a specific government issue such as park maintenance. According to a Chicago law Department spokesperson, the City will appeal as the 11 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew in Grant Park are an integral of the Chicago’s efforts to protect public health and safety. Other legal scholars have suggested that, while the curfew may prove to be legal, the uneven enforcement is a clear case of discrimination against certain groups, as other groups have been allowed to stay beyond the curfew times. One curfew that has not been challenged is the new citywide curfew for children that went into effect September of 2011. In response to police statistics that showed that homicide rates spike between the hours of 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., the Chicago City Council ruled that unsupervised minors 12 or younger will need to be in their homes by 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and by 9 p.m. on the weekends. Those caught will be subject to a fine of up to $500 or community service. There was no change to the ordinance for minors between the ages of 13 to 16 whose existing curfew is to be indoors by 10 p.m. on weekdays and by 11 p.m. on weekends. While some police and politicians have suggested that manpower needs to be focused on street violence, others hope that this ordinance will be one more tool to[READ MORE…]
An April 2012 ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may bring hope to those with criminal histories. The EEOC has changed the rules regarding how and when criminal background checks can be used in employment screenings in the workplace. The new guidelines asks employers to consider the nature of the crime, the time that has passed since the conviction and whether or not the crime committed has any bearing on the employment position. The guidelines were created due to mounting evidence that suggests that criminal background checks can be used to discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities. In October the EEOC alleged that Dollar General Corporation’s use of criminal background checks violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as it had a disparate impact on African American applicants. Legal experts suggest that employers can be held responsible even if they did not intentionally discriminate against a person or group. Employment Screening Resources reported that a major beverage company paid over $3 million and changed their policies and training procedures to resolve the EEOC charge that they discriminated against African Americans through the use of criminal background checks. The ruling seems to have had an effect with a rise in complaints about criminal history discrimination as well as a decrease in businesses conducting mandatory criminal background checks on all potential employees. In order to protect your business we suggest that as an employer you keep a record of all criminal background checks performed and your justification for both reviewing the applicant’s criminal background as well as acting upon that information. As an employer you do have the right to screen employees in order to keep the workplace safe, fight theft and protect the safety and security of your customers.
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