Former Illinois Department of Transportation workers whose jobs were eliminated in an anti-patronage effort launched by Gov. Bruce Rauner early in his term sued his administration to get their jobs back in Illinois federal court.

When the last of the employees hired under former Gov. Pat Quinn were laid off in September of 2016, Rauner called hailed the elimination of their positions as a victory for transparent government. During the campaign, Rauner frequently criticized his opponent for the continuation of political hiring practices at IDOT during the 2014 gubernatorial contest.

Many of the hundreds of “staff assistants” who lost their jobs during the Rauner purge had been hired under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but Rauner’s efforts reclassified these “Rutan-exempt” political jobs as “Rutan-covered,” meaning they had to be awarded based on merit.

The 18-page complaint, filed in the Central District of Illinois, alleges the employees should not have been reassigned to different jobs, and that the move was motivated by political reasons in violation of the workers’ First Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, noted union lawyer Don Craven, wrote in the suit that the Rauner administration’s assertion that the employees were laid off because of a lack of work was a “pretense.”

“Each plaintiff was fully engaged in the work and mission of IDOT, each plaintiff had a series of projects in line to complete, and each was constantly being given new assignments to complete,” according to the complaint.

The suit said the “real reason” for the workers’ terminations “was that they were were employed by the prior administration (under then Governor Patrick Quinn who was a member of the Democratic Party) of that they refused to become affiliated with the Rauner Administration.”

The employees demanded an unspecified amount of compensation and asked the court for a permanent injunction prohibiting Rauner from removing plaintiffs from their employment.

Additionally, the workers asked they be reinstated to their old jobs “with full restoration of seniority, credit for continuous service and restoration of all pension, insurance or other benefits of employment.”