Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, employment discrimination is prohibited. If a worker believes that they were discriminated against in violation of the Act, they can file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. This must be done with 180 days of the purported discriminatory act. There are several steps that one will go through after they file a charge.
The first step is intake. Through the intake process, the worker will give the Department of Human Rights as much information as they have about the incident, in as great of detail as they can. They will provide the Department with their contact information, information about their employer, the dates the purported discriminatory acts occurred, the names and contact information for any other individuals who may have witnessed the act and copies of any documents that are relevant to the situation.
The second step, which is optional, is mediation. Through mediation, the worker and employer will meet together with a neutral Department mediator. With the assistance of the mediator, they will try to reach a resolution to the charge.
The third step is investigation. The Department will complete a neutral investigation of the purported incident in the charge. They may contact and interview those who may have witnessed the incident, and they may obtain relevant documents from both the worker and the employer. Employers cannot retaliate against workers for participating in an investigation. A fact-finding conference may be held. Once the investigation is done, a written report will be drafted detailing the information found and recommending what action to take. This report constitutes the fourth step, findings and results.
The fifth, and final, step is legal review. If the investigation found there was substantial evidence that the Act was violated, the case will be sent either to the Illinois Human Rights Commission or it will be sent to a state circuit court. The Commission or the circuit court will then receive evidence and hear testimony regarding the incident that led to the charge. Then, they will make a determination as to whether illegal discrimination took place.
Being discriminated against in the workplace can be a distressing situation, and workers may not know what steps to take. One thing they can do is discuss their situation with an employment law attorney, to determine if filing a charge is appropriate.
Source: Illinois.gov, "Filing a Charge," accessed March 26, 2018