How Do I File A Claim?
How do I file a state claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights?
To file a claim you can visit the office in person in either Springfield or Chicago. Walk-in interviews are offered Monday through Thursday without an appointment. You may also contact the office by email, but claims are filed either in person, through the mail or via fax.
Against whom can I file a claim?
You can file a claim under the Human Rights Act against your employer, employment agency, or labor organization. If you have a sexual harassment claim, you can file against an individual or an employer. Remember, you must file your claim within 180 days of the discrimination or risk losing it.
If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?
If you do choose to file a claim, you will be able to do so after an interview with an IDHR representative. The representative will discuss with you the options you have available as well as what is expected of you.
How long will the process take?
The IDHR has 365 days from the filing of your complaint to investigate, inform your employer, hold hearings, and prepare a report either recommending suit or not. That time period may be extended if both you and your employer agree to do so in writing.
Do I need an attorney?
You do not need an attorney for any part of the IDHR process. You may retain one if you choose, at your own expense.
What if I can't afford an attorney?
The IDHR does not recommend any specific private attorney, but it does have a list of legal aid associations and other organizations that can represent people who want to file a claim. Remember too that you do not need an attorney to file a claim and there is no fee to file a claim.
What will my attorney need from me?
If you do choose to have an attorney file for you, the attorney will need to have the following information:
Your full name, mailing address, and phone number;
Do I have to contact the IDHR?
Yes if you don't want to go to the federal agency, the EEOC, you must contact IDHR to initiate a claim. Even if you do not want to go to court and prefer mediation, that is done through IDHR as well. If you would rather take your case to the EEOC, you may do so.
Can't I sue my employer directly without going through the IDHR?
No. Under Illinois law if you want to sue, you must initiate the process through IDHR. After the IDHR reviews your claim and hears what your employer has to say, it will then decide whether or not to give you leave to sue. You can appeal their final decision in state court. If you wish to take your case to the federal level, you must wait 60 days from the start of your claim process with IDHR.
Who will investigate my complaint?
The IDHR will investigate your complaint. It has the power to look through documents and records, compel witnesses, and generally discover facts.
What happens after I submit my claim?
The Department will ask you and your employer to consider conciliation (mediation). If you don't agree to mediation, it will then conduct an investigation. The Department then serves your complaint to your employer within 10 days and requires it to respond within 30 days. It will then issue a report stating facts, names and contacts of witnesses, summary of questionnaires, and documents. The director then determines if there is substantial evidence. If there is substantial evidence, the IDHR will issue a complaint that is filed with the IHRC. If no substantial evidence exists the Department will dismiss your claim.
What happens if the investigators determine that no "substantial evidence" exists on which to base a claim?
They will not refer your charge to the IHRC.
What happens if I appeal the IDHR's decision that there is not substantial evidence?
Your appeal goes to the IHRC, where they review the IDHR's report and any evidence you presented.
What happens if the investigator determines that "substantial evidence" exists on which to base a claim?
If your claim does have substantial evidence, the department will call a conciliation conference where you and your employer meet to possibly settle. If no settlement occurs, the department will refer the complaint to the Illinois Human Rights Commission (IHRC) for a hearing.
The IHRC will have 30-90 days after receiving the complaint to hold a hearing where both you and the employer will appear. The IHRC then will come to a final decision in writing and its recommendations based on whether it believes there was a civil rights violation or not.
What is the difference between mediation and a hearing?
Mediation is a voluntary meeting between you and your employer to see if the issue can be resolved. By going to mediation neither you, nor your employer, will give up any rights to pursue the matter further. What is said in mediation will not be disclosed.
What happens if I don't want mediation or no resolution can be reached through mediation?
If a solution cannot be found through mediation, the IDHR will then determine if your claim is valid and, if so, file a complaint with the IHRC.
Can I sue my employer?
Yes, but if the charge is discrimination in employment, you must follow the IDHR or EEOC procedure before you get to court.
Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?
You can go directly to the EEOC, if you have decided not to go through the state agency. If you already started the IDHR procedure and wish to take your case to the federal level, you must wait 60 days from the start of your claim process with IDHR.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?
The Illinois Human Rights Act closely follows federal law found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is no surprise then that Illinois courts follow the federal model in interpreting the Human Rights Act.
From a practical standpoint, the IDHR is good for smaller cases where less money is at stake. It has a mandatory mediation provision. Time is also a factor. IDHR is faster, but it is tougher to get an order for cause. If you have no lawyer, stick to IDHR, because federal procedure is complicated and not all federal judges like to deal with non-lawyers, because of federal court procedures. However, the Chicago branch of EEOC is said to be the "best in the country" and procedures allow for some cross-examination, which is more than IDHR's "investigative" function.
Just remember that if you do file federally and then want to go back to state courts, filing with the EEOC is not a substitute for a final order from the IHRC. You will have to start from the beginning with the IDHR.
How do I contact the IDHR?
You can contact the IDHR by email, phone, fax, mail or in person.
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