Harassment & Discrimination Lawsuits May be Filed in Illinois State Courts Effective January 1, 2009

In the past, employees with charges of discrimination before the EEOC and Illinois Department of Human Rights only had two forums where they could bring a lawsuit – Federal Court or the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Now, individuals who have filed a charge of discrimination at the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) also have the option of filing a lawsuit in Illinois State Court. This will affect those filing lawsuits of sexual harassment, racial harassment, age discrimination as well as other forms of discrimination and harassment.

Who Can File State Court Lawsuit of Harassment or Discrimination

To be eligible to file an employment discrimination or harassment case in Illinois State Courts, a charge of discrimination or harassment must have been filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) after January 1, 2008. One can then elect to file a complaint in State Court under the following circumstances:

  • The Illinois Department of Human Rights issues a finding of substantial evidence and one elects not to have the Department file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
  • The Illinois Department of Human Rights issues a finding of lack of substantial evidence.
  • The Illinois Department of Human Rights fails to issue a finding within 365 days of the charge being filed (or longer if an extension was signed by both parties).

Differences Between State Courts And Human Rights Commission

Unlike the Illinois Human Rights Commission, State Court allows a case to be heard and decided by a jury of your peers. At the Human Rights Commission it is up to an Administrative Law Judge to determine the outcome of a particular case, including, the amount of damages that should be awarded. In State Court, however, this role may be undertaken by a jury. This creates the possibility of larger awards in State Court than the Human Rights Commission. However, the discovery process is more extensive in State Court and the cost of prosecuting a claim in State Court may be higher than proceeding at the Human Rights Commission.