Racial Discrimination Remedies in Illinois

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Area of Law: 

Racial discrimination is defined as treating someone differently because of their race, color, creed, or national origin. Two separate entities work together to enforce Illinois’ Human Rights Act, which was passed in 1979 and is the most wide reaching civil rights legislation that Illinois has ever passed. They are: the Illinois Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). The IHRC prohibits racial discrimination in the areas of employment, real estate, higher education, public accommodation, and credit. It conducts hearings, makes decisions, and provides legal help by approving settlements. The IDHR offers legal support by investigating filed charges and referring matters to the IHRC for further legal assistance and handling.


Illinois law does not require parties involved with civil rights actions to have an attorney's assistance, but it does strongly encourage it.  The Illinois Human Rights staff can provide a list of attorneys who offer low cost legal services if requested. The staff members can also answer potential complainants' questions concerning filing a complaint and complaint investigation procedures. Illinois law suggests people who feel that their rights have been violated speak to IDHR intake staff who may be able to offer assistance either by drafting a charge if it is appropriate or by issuing a referral to a different agency. 



Potential racial discrimination complainants can file a complaint by calling, writing, or visiting the IDHR in person at either the Chicago or Springfield office within 180 days of the occurrence of the “discriminatory act." While IDHR staff cannot provide legal advice, they can help you fill out the complaint forms. After a complaint is filed, the racial discrimination allegations are investigated by the IDHR who may find “substantial evidence” that a violation did in fact occur; however, if the IDHR does not find "substantial evidence," the case will be dismissed. If IDHR does find evidence of a violation, it files the complaint with the IHRC for review. An administrative law judge (ALJ) may then conduct a hearing similar to a trial and issue a decision and order. According to the Illinois human rights website, this process is required to be completed within one year unless the parties involved agree to extend the deadline.


Legal forms, including the Appearance Form and the Complaint of Civil Rights Violation Form, can be found at the Illinois Human Rights Commission website.  At the IHRC website, there is also a brochure available that discusses the process and procedure for filing a racial discrimination charge.


If a discrimination charge violates federal civil rights law in the area of employment, Illinois offers legal assistance by cross-filing your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Illinois provides further legal services by offering training with regard to non-discrimination and equal employment opportunity issues, such as sexual harassment and disability discrimination. The public relations section of the Illinois Human Rights Department has an education and outreach program, which offers workshops, events, and programs to educate the public about discrimination issues. If a racial discrimination situation involves a hate crime, there is the Illinois Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes that can offer assistance. Finally, IDHR also works with discrimination issues pertaining to public contracts and enforcement of affirmative action programs.