Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1998
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Dale Hall started waiting tables at a Red Lobster restaurant in 1986, while in college. He later completed a management training program and worked his way up through various restaurants until he was made associate manager at an outlet in Lincolnwood. Hall's rise was propelled by glowing performance reviews.

In 1995, his success story began to unravel. For no apparent reason -- except a visceral dislike for homosexuals -- Hall's supervisor in Lincolnwood began a campaign of harassment, including publicly announcing, "I've got to get rid of this faggot."

A year later Hall was, in fact, fired, ironically for "creating a hostile work environment."

Hall was saved by geography: Lincolnwood is in Cook County--the only county in Illinois with an ordinance that outlaws anti-gay discrimination.

Except for Cook County and the municipalities of Evanston, Oak Park, Champaign/Urbana and Chicago, Illinoisans can lose their jobs solely for being gay, without legal recourse whatever.

If any evidence were needed that Illinois should extend anti- discrimination protection to homosexuals, the egregious treatment of Dale Hall by the Red Lobster chain should do nicely.

In a final ruling on Thursday, the Cook County Human Rights Commission ordered Red Lobster to rehire Hall and pay him about $45,000 in back pay and $50,000 in damages.

The commission also ordered Red Lobster to undertake a program of diversity training for workers in all its restaurants in Cook County.

What happened to Hall should not happen to any worker in Illinois: A person's right to hold a job and make a living should depend on performance and qualifications, not employer bias.

Yet legislation to that effect has been proposed in Springfield since 1974 only to be shot down by predictable, if increasingly unpersuasive, arguments, from fears of pedophilia to biblical injunctions against homosexuality.

To overcome these objections, the proposed revision of the Illinois Human Rights Act has been reworked to exempt religious organizations, preclude affirmative action for gays, and exclude apartment buildings of fewer than four units from its housing discrimination clauses.

That whittles down the matter to the essential: whether people should be denied housing, credit, public accommodations or employment solely on the basis of sexual orientation. They should not.

Ten other states, including Wisconsin in 1980, have decided such denials should be illegal. Dale Hall's case shows the need for Illinois to do the same.

Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1998
By Jon Bigness, Tribune Staff Writer

Dale Hall, a gay man who sued Red Lobster after the restaurant fired him because of his sexual orientation, was handed a bigger-than-expected victory by the Cook County Commission on Human Rights.

The six-member panel unanimously upheld a proposed decision by hearing officer David Lee that Red Lobster violated the county's civil rights laws when it dismissed Hall in 1996 from its outlet in Lincolnwood. In a first under the 1993 ordinance extending employment protection to homosexuals, the panel ordered the company to reinstate Hall as an associate manager.

"I believe it's a great day for Cook County," said Paul Vickrey, Hall's lawyer. "The sooner discrimination against homosexuals is stamped out, the better we are."

The panel came down harder on the seafood restaurant chain than the original ruling, ordering Red Lobster to conduct diversity training at all six of its Cook County restaurants.

Damages for pain and suffering were bumped up to $50,000 from $10,000, on top of $45,000 in back pay, interest and lost value of benefits.

The company, a unit of Orlando-based Darden Restaurants Inc., also has to ensure that discrimination against Hall comes to an end.

The ruling, made late Thursday, sends "an important message that unlawful discrimination will not be tolerated in Cook County and that there is a meaningful forum for redress," said Jennifer Vidas, the commission's executive director.

Darden executives declined to comment until after they had a chance to read the order. But in an earlier interview, a spokesman said Darden would appeal an unfavorable ruling.

Hall's suit against Red Lobster gained national attention recently when a Red Lobster lawyer challenged the Cook County human rights ordinance as unconstitutional. The company quickly instructed the attorney to withdraw the argument after protests by gay-rights activists.

Cook County is the only county in Illinois that protects gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination.


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