The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") is the agency that administers the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"), the state law that outlaws discrimination, harassment and retaliation by most employers in Illinois. The IDHR's federal counterpart is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), which administers the federal laws preventing the same type of violations.
In 2018, a number of "employee friendly" amendments to the IHRA took place that will affect employers in the future. These amendments significantly change the charge - filing process on the state level. Below is a brief outline of some of the amendments that have been implemented.
1. Statute of limitations for filing a charge with the IDHR.
Employees will now have 300 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act to file a charge of discrimination with the IDHR, as opposed to the previous 180 day time period. This change will now be consistent with the EEOC, which also has a 300 day deadline.
2. Current or former employees who have filed a charge with the IDHR can now opt-out of the IDHR investigation procedures.
Another amendment to the IHRA will now allow Complainant's to opt-out of the IDHR investigation procedures and much more quickly file a lawsuit in Illinois State Court. The amendment provides employees with the following timetable:
a. 10 Days: Within 10 days of receiving the Complainant's filed charge, the IDHR must send the Complainant a notice of their right to opt-out of the department's investigation procedures and proceed to state court.
b. 60 Days: Within 60 days of receiving the notice, the Complainant must submit a written request to opt out of the investigative process.
c. 10 Days: The IDHR must respond to the Complainant's request within 10 business days and notify the employer that the Complainant has opted-out.
d. 90 Days: Within 90 days of the IDHR's response, the Complainant must commence an action in Illinois State Court.
3. Administrative Changes.
The IHRA was also amended to change the actual structure of the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The IHRC is the agency that holds hearings and issues decisions when a Complainant requests review from an adverse decision in the IDHR. There had become a huge back-log of cases. The IHRC and the amendments to the IHRA decreases the size of the Commission from 13 part-time members to 7 full-time members. Each Commissioner will be provided one staff attorney, and the huge back log of cases are supposed to be dealt with by the end of 2019. As of January 1, 2019, it has been reported that this streamlining of the IHRC has led to a 44% reduction in pending cases and the request for review backlog has decreased by 40%.
These amendments to the IHRA are not seen as "employer friendly" because they extend the time period in Illinois for Complainants to file charges against their current or former employer, which may significantly increase the number of charges that are filed with the IDHR. The amendments also allow a Complainant to bypass the IDHR's investigation procedures and allows the Complainant to much more quickly file his/her claims in state court, resulting in increased state court litigation, which will be more costly and time consuming for employers.
Call attorney Joe Laverty at (563) 333-9102 or email him at [email protected] to discuss this article or any aspect of discrimination charges.