Employees have a right to work in an environment free from discrimination. This includes discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, and disability. Numerous federal, state, and local laws protect private and public employees from discrimination. These include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Illinois Human Rights Act, among other laws.

Pursuing Discrimination Claims

For most types of claims, the employee is required to file a Charge of Discrimination with the appropriate government agency before filing a lawsuit. He or she must file a complaint with the agency responsible for enforcing the relevant discrimination statutes violated. For example, in Illinois, an employee alleging discrimination or wrongful termination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, military status, age, marital status, or sexual orientation must file a charge with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Illinois Department of Human Rights. In Illinois, it is possible to “dual file” the charge, so filing it in one agency will effectively file it in the other.

Once the charge has been filed, the state or federal employment agency will begin its investigation to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe any wrongful conduct occurred. The agency’s investigator has authority to obtain a position statement from the employer, conduct an on-site visit, and interview witnesses. The agency investigator will evaluate all information provided. The agency will often conduct a voluntary mediation between the employee and employer.

If the case is not settled through mediation, the agency will most-often issue a right to sue letter to the complainant. With this letter, the individual can proceed to litigate the claims alleged in the charge. Depending on the claims and strategic decisions, the lawsuit may be pursued in state or federal court, or may be pursued in the Illinois Commission on Human Rights if the claims involve state law.

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Illinois Discrimination Attorney

If you have been wronged by an employer, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your losses. Although it is always important to consult with an attorney as soon as you believe you may be subject to unfair treatment by an employer, this is especially true in discrimination cases. Most causes of action allow the plaintiff to file suit within so many years. However, discrimination claims must be initiated much sooner than most claims.

A charge filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination, and a charge filed with the EEOC can generally be filed within 300 days from the alleged violation. Some statutes require an even shorter time to complaint about the discrimination. For example, federal government employees alleging discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act must contact an Equal Opportunity counselor within 45 days of the alleged wrongdoing or their claims will likely be lost. Similarly, Illinois state government employees generally must file employment claims within one year of the adverse employment action.

Due to the relatively limited time to initiate a discrimination complaint, it is vital to contact and employment attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights under federal and Illinois law. Contact Osborne Employment Law today for a free consultation.