Illinois Department of Human Rights

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 What Is the Illinois Department of Human Rights?

The Illinois Department of Human Rights is the main state agency in Illinois that processes discrimination claims. One of its main tasks is to enforce the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), which prohibits discrimination in the areas of:

  • Employment and labor
  • Fair housing and public accommodations
  • Finances/Credit

Certain plaintiffs may suffer losses due to discrimination that is investigated, mediated, and resolved by the Department.

What Types of Legal Issues Does the Department Process?

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, employment discrimination is illegal when it is based on a person’s race, religion, national origin, color, ancestry, marital status, age, and other categories.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights processes discrimination in the categories listed above. The Department is somewhat unique in that it prohibits persons from aiding or abetting another person in violating the IHRA.

Lastly, the Department processes claims involving retaliation claims. Firing an employee for filing an IHRA claim is called “retaliatory discharge” and is prohibited.

What Are Some Limitations of the Illinois Department of Human Rights?

The Department of Human Rights will NOT investigate:

  • Claims where the employer has less than 15 employees (except for certain types of discrimination, such as sexual harassment or other specific cases)
  • Claims involving personality conflicts, political affiliations, and other unfair employment cases
  • Claims involving unfair union practices, unless the claim specifically involves any of the discrimination categories listed under the Act

What if I Need to File a Claim?

Discrimination claims may be filed directly with the Department of Human Rights. If necessary, you can also file in person. You will need to provide the basic information related to your claim, including a brief description of your situation and why you believe discrimination may have occurred.

It is also important to be aware of any filing deadlines for your claim. A claim for employment discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the discrimination incident. Other types of discrimination may have different filing times.

As soon as you file a complaint, the Department will investigate to determine whether the discrimination really occurred and whether you have any legal recourse. You may be able to file a lawsuit if the investigation is unsatisfactory.

What Are the Rights of Applicants?

Even a job applicant is granted certain rights by the employer. For instance, job applicants have the right to be free from discrimination based on race, age, gender, or national origin. Additionally, an employer cannot check a prospective employee’s credit without notifying the employee and obtaining their permission. During the hiring process, an employer cannot ask specific family-related questions.

What Is Considered Employment Discrimination?

An employee (or potential employee) can be discriminated against because of specific characteristics when they are treated less favorably than other similar employees. A person’s age, sex, gender, religion, disability, or other characteristics are protected by law.

Employment discrimination can also occur when one group of workers is treated better than another based on protected classes or categories defined by miscellaneous laws. In this case, one group of workers receives benefits denied to others based on their gender.

Generally, such discrimination occurs after a person has already been hired. Nonetheless, it can also happen when a person is still seeking employment (for instance, when they are not hired because of their religion).

What Are Some of the Laws Against Employment Discrimination?

Various state and federal laws make it illegal to discriminate against an employee. These regulations have impacted work environments throughout U.S. history, and each has its own role in defining employment discrimination.

Some of the more influential laws involving employment discrimination include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This is a federal anti-discrimination act that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. Both private and public employers are covered;
  • The Equal Pay Act (EPA): The EPA protects employers against gender discrimination. In particular, it provides that workers of different genders should be paid equally if they are doing equal work;
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The ADEA protects against discrimination against 40 years and older employees. Age-related circumstances, such as being forced to retire, are addressed;
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): As with other anti-discrimination regulations, this outlaws discrimination against a person based on their disability status. The article also discusses different aspects of employment, such as providing reasonable accommodations to disabled employees;
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA): The IRCA sets various requirements for employers concerning employees’ immigration status. In addition, it discusses when and how employers should confirm workers’ employment eligibility; and
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA is a federal law that governs how employees can take unpaid medical leave. It protects against being fired while on a legitimate or approved medical leave, among other things.

What Are the Rights of Employees?

Upon hiring, all workers have certain fundamental rights at work. All workers have the right to privacy, for example. An employee’s personal possessions are protected by their right to privacy. Purses, wallets, briefcases, individual storage lockers, and private mail are examples of personal possessions. Nevertheless, workers will probably not have a right to privacy on the company’s computer.

These are some of the other significant rights that employees have:

  • The right to fair wages and compensation for work performed.
  • The right to be free from any discrimination or harassment.
  • The right to a safe and free workplace from hazardous conditions, toxic substances, or any other potential dangers.
  • The right to be free from retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against a particular employer.

What Is “Privacy in the Workplace”?

A person’s right to privacy at work is usually much less protected than in their private lives. The reasonable expectation of privacy relates to the United States Constitution and the privacy protections afforded in the Fourth Amendment.

It is technically the employer’s responsibility to maintain the area at the workplace. Therefore, desks and offices may be searched. Despite this, a locked desk drawer or a confidential discussion may receive more privacy protection than an unrestricted area. It is also possible to monitor work computers, email accounts, and phone systems.

The privacy expectation for an employee’s personal belongings, such as a cell phone, bag, or purse, is typically higher. An employer may search an employee’s belongings if something was stolen or if the worker works in a diplomatic or high-risk position.

The employer may be in violation of the law if a search is conducted without a sound reason.

Review your employee handbook regarding workplace investigations if you are involved in one.
The due process rights of government employees differ from those of private sector employees. Using your right to representation is usually a good idea if your policy states you have it. Human resources and company lawyers are there to protect the company, not you.

Do I Have a Basis for Governmental Agency-Related Discrimination?

A government is limited by the United States Constitution and the Code of Federal Regulations from passing laws or enacting regulations that have a disparate impact or disparately treat members of one group differently from non-members:

  • Disparate Impact: For instance, it is common for employees to take placement tests to qualify for promotions in certain government positions, which permit one group of applicants to do well on their tests and be promoted and allow another group to perform poorly and not be promoted.
  • Disparate Treatment: If a regulation specifically requires members of one group to undergo certain negative treatment while permitting non-members to be free from all such negative treatment.

Legal Obstacles That Might Prevent a Claim

The main challenge for one seeking to redress federal discrimination grievances in court is that the case may be outside the jurisdiction of the federal court.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help File with the Illinois Department of Human Rights?

It is not uncommon for civil rights violations such as discrimination to involve some challenging legal concepts. You should hire a qualified lawyer if you need to file a claim. Your Illinois discrimination lawyers can help you file your claim properly and can provide you with expert representation during any hearings.

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