Illinois and federal law protect employees against discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and the relevant statutes each create an administrative agency to address misconduct. You can either file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). But with options come questions: Should you file with the EEOC under federal law or with the IDHR to gain the protections of state law? In short, it depends on your specific circumstances, which is why you should discuss the advantages and disadvantages with an experienced Chicago discrimination lawyer. However, here are some points to keep in mind.
You Must Go the Agency Route First
You may wonder why you even need to file with the EEOC or IDHR, since the discriminatory or harassing conduct at work is so egregious and offensive that you want to sue in court. The reason is a legal term called “exhausting” your administrative remedies, and it requires you to bring your claim before one of these two agencies before being able to file a lawsuit. If your claim is resolved before the EEOC or the IDHR, you will not need to take the matter to court.
Illinois Law is More Expansive
There are more protections under Illinois discrimination and harassment statutes, so filing with the IDHR under state law may be the proper route. For example:
- The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) includes more expansive list of protected classes than Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act;
- The IHRA provides a broader definition of disability in a discrimination case as compared to federal law; and,
- Illinois law applies to a wider range of employers for sexual harassment claims, covering all companies with 1-14 employees; Title VII only applies to those employers having 15 or more employees.
There are Different Statutes of Limitations
Both federal and state law include strict time restrictions on filing a claim with either the EEOC or the IDHR. Counting from the date you experienced the misconduct, you must file with IDHR within 180 days or the EEOC within 300 days.
Therefore, if time is a consideration, the federal option may be appropriate. Regardless, you should act quickly and discuss your case with a lawyer if you believe you were the victim of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. You may have other legal issues falling under different statutes of limitations, and you do not want your claim to be barred because you waited too long.
Talk to an Experienced Chicago Employment Attorney About Filing with EEOC or IDHR
There are many more factors to consider when trying to decide whether to file your discrimination claim under federal or Illinois law, so you should trust a skilled lawyer to explain your options. You may even have reasons to file with both EEOC and IDHR, since the two agencies have a work-sharing agreement to cooperate with handling claims. For more information, please contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We can schedule a consultation at our Chicago office to review your circumstances and advise you on your legal alternatives.