Through their union, Teamsters Local 700, employees of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County say they are working without enough sanitizer, supplies and effective leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the teamsters' said Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown is to blame for a lack of leadership.
"At the very least, Brown could provide all her employees across all districts enough hand sanitizer, rubber gloves and masks to perform their tasks without having to sacrifice their health," Teamsters Local 700 President Ramon Williams said in the statement.
Many Cook County court cases have been postponed until April 16, but courthouses remain open and staff continue to work as an essential government function.
A statement issued Friday afternoon by the clerk's office denies that there are shortages of supplies or a lack of direction from leadership.
"In dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, the clerk's office has faithfully followed the guidelines laid out by the CDC. We have been keeping our employees fully informed and urging them to practice safety precautions," said Chief Public Information Officer Jalyne Strong-Shaw.
The statement also said that Brown is very concerned about the health and safety of office employees. It added that, in a meeting Friday morning, Brown ordered senior management to go to a "skeleton crew" for handling work onsite, while permitting all other staff to work from home.
"They said the bare minimum to everybody," said one worker in the Bridgeview clerk's office who spoke to NBC 5. The worker requested anonymity, fearing of retribution at work for speaking out about conditions. "Our place has no hand sanitizer. They have one thing in the hallway, but [we're not] going to keep walking out there."
Strong-Shaw's statement stated that all clerk's office areas, including Bridgeview, have been provided sanitizer, gloves, electronic wipes, cleaning fluids and towels.
On Friday, March 13, Chief Judge Timothy Evans released a lengthy order that postponed all civil and criminal trials in Cook County, but allowed other proceedings to continue, such as grand juries and cases of child abuse and neglect.
Judge Evans also said courthouses would remain open, following guidance from the Illinois Supreme Court. That same day, Brown requested that the public use her office's remote services to limit in-person contact.
"No one really told us how to handle people coming in on Monday morning," said the Bridgeview clerk worker. "There's just a lot of confusion."
Strong-Shaw's statement said that Brown is writing Chief Judge Evans "urging shutdown of all courthouses and asking him to request that the Illinois Supreme Court halt court filings."