Big Change in Illinois Discrimination Law

On August 24, 2018, Governor Rauner signed legislation passed by the state assembly into law which makes major changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA).

Employees who allege discrimination now have 300 calendar days, from the date of the alleged civil rights violation, to file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR).  Previously, the time limitation was only 180 calendar days from the date of the alleged violation. This extended time mirrors the same period that employees in Illinois have to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to preserve their federal rights.  This amendment is effective on the date Governor Rauner signed the legislation (August 24, 2018). This means that any civil rights violations occurring before August 24, 2018, are still subject to the 180-day time limitation.

As part of the amendment to the IHRA, employees can now opt out of the previously-mandated administrative investigation conducted by the Illinois Department of Human Rights and bring a lawsuit, based on their charges, in state circuit courts.  Within ten days of an employee filing a charge of discrimination with the IDHR, the IDHR is mandated to send the employee notice of his / her right to opt out of the IDHR process. An employee will have sixty days, from the receipt of this notice, to request a Notice of Right to Sue.  Thereafter, a lawsuit must be filed within ninety days in a state circuit court from the receipt of the Notice of Right to Sue.

These changes to the law are significant for both employees and employers.  Prior to the new amendments, an employee had to wait to the completion of the IDHR’s investigation, which often took more than a year, before being allowed to pursue alleged civil rights violations in state circuit.  Further, the employee was required to directly participate in the investigative process conducted by the IDHR. Now, an employee can avoid that delay and participation and pursue their discrimination rights and claims much sooner in a state court before a jury.  

Employers may face lawsuits in state court more often and earlier than under the previous law.  Employees claiming violation of their civil rights under state law may opt to pursue their rights in state court before a jury against the employer (former or current) which, in turn, may lead to increased litigation for employers.  Employers must be ever more vigilant in their compliance with state anti-discrimination and civil rights laws. Employees may get to a courtroom much sooner than before.

DISCLAIMER: The above is not and should not be interpreted as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. You should consult an attorney for legal advice. If you or someone you know are a victim of harassment and are seeking representation, click here to reach out to our firm.