Chicago EEOC and IDHR Laywer
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, more commonly known by its initials, EEOC, was created as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to enforce Title VII. Today, the EEOC is also responsible for enforcing other anti-discrimination laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Equal Pay Act (EPA), though the latter provides an independent cause of action in Federal Court.
Before filing a Federal law suit for discrimination or harassment, one must first file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The EEOC then investigates the charge by asking both the employee, known as the Complainant, and the employer being charged, known as the Respondent, for documents and information relevant to the charge. At the end of its investigation, the EEOC may do one of three things: 1) close its file without completing the investigation; 2) conclude that it was unable to establish a violation of the law; or 3) conclude that there is substantial evidence of a violation – referred to as a “Cause Determination.”
If the EEOC closes its file without completing the investigation, or is unable to conclude that discrimination or sexual harassment took place, it will issue a Notice of Right to Sue. The Complainant then has 90 days to file his or her case in Federal Court. Once the 90 days have passed, the employee loses his or her opportunity to file in Federal Court. This is a very important deadline and must be monitored carefully.
If the EEOC makes a Cause Determination, it will try to “conciliate” the case by achieving a settlement between the parties and in addition, require the employer to take certain affirmative steps to prevent discrimination or sexual harassment from happening again in the future. If those efforts fail, the EEOC has the right to file its own case against the employer and the employee can join that case with his or her own attorney. If the EEOC does not file its own case, it will issue a Notice of Right to Sue, and again the employee has only 90 days to file in Federal Court.
The reality is that the EEOC does not often make Cause Determinations and rarely files its own case; however, many of these cases are still filed in Federal Court, and it is possible to win a case in Federal Court or settle it, even though EEOC did not make a finding in your favor.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR)
You may also file your claims of discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act. To do so, you have to file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). The IDHR serves the same function for the State of Illinois as the EEOC does for the Federal Government. There are, however, some important differences. 1) If the IDHR investigation does not provide substantial evidence of a violation and your charge was filed before January 1, 2008, you cannot go into court. Rather, you may ask for a review from the Chief Legal Counsel’s Office at the IDHR. You may also ask that the IDHR forward your case to the EEOC for review, and then take your case to Federal Court. If the IDHR does find in your favor, it will file a complaint for you with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission is very much like a court with a judge who hears your case.
Because of a hard-fought change in the law, charges filed with the IDHR after January 1, 2008 may be brought in court, even if the IDHR finds against you. Please see our legislative work page for more information on the right to sue bill. Nonetheless, this does not change the fact that you have only 180 days to file your complaint with the IDHR from the time of the discriminatory acts. This means that if the act took place before approximately July 8, 2007, filing the charge after January 1, 2008 will be too late.
Beware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is not a Federal Court. Further, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights are not the same entities. They are both investigative authorities, while the courts and the Illinois Human Rights Commission are judicial bodies.
At Maduff & Maduff we are very familiar with the procedures and processes of the EEOC and the IDHR, as well as the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Generally, we prefer to take our client into the EEOC or IDHR to make the initial charge. Because an employee is required to file with the EEOC before filing with the Federal Court, the case can be dismissed from the Federal Court if the Court determines that the Charge of Discrimination filed with the EEOC is not specific enough. It is also important to note that in Illinois, you must file your charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the incident you believe was discrimination but you have only 180 days to file with the IDHR.
If you have a claim of discrimination, you need to consult with a Chicago EEOC and IDHR Lawyer. Call us right away.