lightford floor 052320SPRINGFIELD – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) led a measure through the Senate Saturday to expand disability benefits for some frontline state employees, protect retail workers from assault, and allow horse racetrack casino, or racino, employees to organize.

“The current pandemic has underlined the need for securing basic rights for working class people with disproportionate infection rates among populations with a high number of essential workers,” Lightford said.

Certain state employees, including firefighters, law enforcement and paramedics, would be eligible for an additional 60 days of paid disability leave if their injury recovery has been hindered by difficulties accessing treatment due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

To recognize the enhanced roles being asked of retail workers, battery of a retail worker would be enhanced to aggravated battery if the worker was performing duties that may include relaying directions for health care or safety, or during a declared disaster or state of emergency due to a public health emergency and for six months after either declaration. 

“The recent attacks on retail workers who are trying to enforce new healthcare guidelines are completely repugnant,” Lightford said. “It is unfortunate that we have to put this provision in place to protect individuals who are just trying to keep a roof over their heads.”

Racino employees would have the opportunity to engage in collective bargaining as a requirement for any horse racetrack with more than 10 employees that wants to expand to include a casino.

“Racetrack employees have fought for their rights as workers for years,” Lightford said. “This change gives them an opportunity to have a say in their working conditions, benefits and other issues.”

Senate Bill 471 will now head to the governor’s desk for final approval.