What Does the Law Say?


Where is the law regarding sex discrimination and failure to promote in Illinois found?


Employment discrimination is covered by Article 1 §17 and §18 of the Bill of Rights of the Illinois state constitution. Section 17 states that, "all persons shall have the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin and sex in the hiring and promotion practices of any employer." The state equal rights amendment, Section 18 more broadly states that, "the equal protection of the laws shall not be abridged on the account of sex by the State or units of local government and school districts." In addition, employment discrimination is also prohibited by the Illinois Human Right Act ("IHRA"). IHRA considers it to be a civil rights violation for any employer to refuse to hire, segregate, or act with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, renewal of employment, privileges or conditions of employment on the basis of unlawful discrimination.



What is an employee under the Human Rights Act?


An employee is defined as any individual performing services for money within the state for an employer. A domestic servant in a private home does not qualify as an employee.



What is an employer under the Human Rights Act?


An employer is defined as any person employing 15 or more employees within Illinois during 20 or more calendar weeks within the calendar year of the incident. However, in some special instances, even if fewer than 15 employees are employed, the agency will qualify as an employer. These instances arise when the employer is the state or any political subdivision, municipality or government unit or when the employer is a party to a public contract (meaning the employer has a contract with the state).



Are women a protected class?


Yes. Article 1 §17 and §18 of the Bill of Rights of the Illinois State Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, discrimination on the basis of sex is also prohibited.



What is illegal?


Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, it is illegal to do any of the following: refuse to hire an applicant, fail to promote an employee, or fire an employee, on the basis of gender. Sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation are also prohibited activities under the Illinois Human Rights Act.



Is there a federal law about sex discrimination?


Yes, under Title VII, discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited.



How does the state law compare with the federal law in terms of coverage?


The Illinois Human Rights Act is based on Title VII, so the requirements you must meet to sustain a suit under the two are almost identical.



Is it ever okay for my employer to discriminate with regards to hiring or promotion?


Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, it is never okay for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sex. However, nothing in this Act prohibits employers from making an employment decision on a bona fide basis. This means that your employer must make its hiring or promotion decisions based on your qualifications. Under the IHRA, an employer is also allowed to make hiring and promotion decisions based on ability tests and merit systems (as long as these systems do not have the effect of unlawful discrimination.)



What must I prove to win my case?


In order to prove your case you must show the following:(1) You are a member of the protected class;(2) You applied for and were denied an open position;(3) You were rejected for the position despite your qualifications; and, (4) After you were rejected, the position remained open and the employer continued to seek applicants with your qualifications.


In other words, in order to succeed in court, you must prove each one of the elements listed above. This means that the burden of proving the case is on you. You will be called the plaintiff in this case, because you are the one bringing the suit into court.


Once you have proven your case, your employer must articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its action. For example, in a failure to promote situation, the employer can cite a seniority or merit system or demonstrate a legitimate business reason for not promoting you. In a failure to hire situation, they can show that they hired someone more qualified than you. If the employer is able to articulate a non-discriminatory reason for their action, you must then prove that the reason is pre-text. Pretext is a false reason given by your employer to cover up the real reason for the discrimination. Pretext can be shown by presenting evidence that your employer intended to discriminate. Examples of evidence include a record of past practices or by proving that the reason offered by your employer does not stand.



What is the time limit ("statue of limitations") for filing a claim?


You must file your claim within 180 days of the alleged discrimination.



Who enforces the law?


The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) enforces the Human Rights Act. IDHR has three locations in Illinois. To file a charge, you can contact any of the three locations. You can reach them through the web at Illinois Department of Human Rights.



What are the filing procedures?


If you think that you have been subjected to discriminatory practices, you may file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The process takes some time. The Human Rights Act requires that the Department make a finding within 365 days after the filing of the charge. If it has been 365 days and no action has been taken, you have an additional 30 days to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Otherwise, the complaint will be dismissed. For more information, please see "How Do I File A Claim?".



What type of remedies can I seek?


Remedies can include back pay (money your employer owes you from not paying you what it should have), lost benefits, emotional damages, hiring, promotion and attorney's fees and costs. No punitive damages are available under the Act. For more information please see:



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