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P. Ex Rel. Hum. Rts v. Ar. Pk Race Track

OPINION FILED MARCH 2, 1984.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ARLINGTON PARK RACE TRACK CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Harold A. Siegan, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE SULLIVAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendants appeal from an order permanently enjoining them from implementing a policy of prohibiting children under the age of 14 from residing in the backstretch area of Arlington Park Race Track, in violation of section 3-104(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 68, par. 3-104(A)). They contend that (1) section 3-104(A) is inapplicable under the facts of this case; and (2) the policy in question is rationally related to legitimate health, safety, and welfare considerations.

Defendant Arlington Park Race Track Corporation (the Track) is licensed by the Illinois Racing Board to operate Arlington Park Race Track. During its five-month race meeting, generally held from May through September each year, it has traditionally provided living facilities for certain employees of trainers who have been assigned stalls for horses accepted for racing. Currently, the Track owns nine facilities (hereinafter dormitories) in an area commonly known as the backstretch, providing over 600 rooms ranging in size from 80 to 206 square feet, with the larger rooms being designated for double occupancy and the smaller for single occupancy. Some of the rooms have individual washroom and shower facilities, but the majority of them are serviced by communal facilities, usually located in the same building. None of the rooms are equipped for cooking, which is prohibited under both Track rules and Illinois Racing Board rules because of the proximity of the dormitories to the stabling area. Nevertheless, a number of occupants, both those with children and those without, frequently breach those rules by using hot plates, and it appears that the Track has taken no steps to stop these violations.

Rooms in the dormitories are allocated to trainers on the basis of one space for each 2.5 horses accepted for racing. The trainers in turn assign the spaces to hot walkers, exercise persons, and grooms employed by them to care for the horses. A $75 refundable damage deposit is paid by the trainer for each space; no further charge is made to the trainer, and the trainers do not charge rent to their employees, who are among the lowest-paid workers in the industry. The employees may occupy the rooms so long as they are employed by a trainer who has horses stabled at the track, that trainer continues to give permission for such occupancy, and the employee is licensed by the Illinois Racing Board and observes its rules.

The Track also maintains 16 two-bedroom trailers in an area removed from the backstretch, ostensibly for rental to those employees who are accompanied by their families. The Track charges $300 per month for the rental units, but they are rented only during the race meeting, and the Track does not recover its costs through the rental charge.

For a number of years, some employees have brought their spouses and/or children to live with them in the dormitories, allegedly because either the cost of other housing was prohibitive or no space was available in the rental area maintained by the Track or in nearby communities. While exact figures apparently are not available, it seems that an average of 20 to 30 families live at the backstretch during each race meeting, and it is estimated that 30 to 40 children, the majority of whom are six years old or younger, are involved. The Track has been aware of the presence of these children since the early 1970's without taking action to exclude them. However, in April 1982, the Track notified trainers that no children would be permitted to reside at the backstretch during the 1982 race meeting.

On May 6, 1982, several employees affected by that policy filed charges with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (the Department), alleging violation of section 3-104(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act (the Act), which provides:

"It is a civil rights violation for the owner or agent of any housing accommodation to:

(A) Require, as a condition precedent to the rental of a housing accommodation, that the prospective tenant shall not have, at the time the application for rental is made, one or more children under the age of 14 years residing in his or her family * * *." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 68, par. 3-104(A).)

Shortly thereafter, the Department filed the instant action pursuant to section 7-104 of the Act, which provides in pertinent part:

"(1) At any time after a charge is filed, the Department may petition the appropriate court for temporary relief, pending final determination of the proceedings under this Act * * *.

(3) When the petition is based upon a civil rights violation as defined in Article 3 of this Act, the relief or restraining order entered by the court shall not exceed 5 days unless:

(a) A longer period is agreed to by the respondent, or

(b) The court finds that there is substantial evidence to demonstrate that the respondent has engaged in unlawful discrimination." (Ill. ...


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