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FAQs

Common Questions

What is the State of Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Helpline and Website?

The State of Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination (“SHD”) Helpline and Website were established pursuant to Public Acts 100-0554 (November 2017) and 100-0588 (June 2018) and are administered by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”). Calls to the Helpline (877-236-7703) are answered by The Chicago Lighthouse pursuant to a contract with the IDHR.

The Helpline and Website were established by the Illinois legislature to provide a centralized resource for all Illinoisans to obtain necessary information and assistance in the filing of sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. Information provided to the SHD Helpline and Website is confidential and not subject to disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).

What happens if I report sexual harassment or discrimination?

Outcomes for victims who report sexual harassment or discrimination depend on what happened and where they report.

 

For example:

  • Victims may be able to stop unwelcome sexual conduct by telling the harasser to stop.
  • Reporting to the employer may result in training, sanctions, discipline and/or discharge for the perpetrator.
  • Filing a charge at the Illinois Department of Human Rights could result in an investigation and a finding of substantial evidence. Through the Illinois Human Rights Commission or Circuit Court, a victim may receive make-whole damages, including emotional distress damages and attorney fees and costs.
  • Public employees can also report sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct to the Office of Inspector General with jurisdiction over their agency. The Inspector General can investigate and the harasser/wrongdoer may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000, discipline/termination, and/or other remedial action.
  • Criminal matters such as rape and assault can be addressed through the judicial/court systems.

What is the process for investigating a complaint of sexual harassment or discrimination at the Illinois Department of Human Rights?

The Illinois Department of Human Rights administers the Illinois Human Rights Act (“Act”), which prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination in Illinois with respect to employment, real estate transactions (housing), public accommodations (public places and officials), financial credit, and sexual harassment in education. A discrimination charge can be initiated by calling, writing or appearing in person at IDHR’s Chicago or Springfield office within 300 days of the date the alleged discrimination took place (180 days for harms prior to 6/8/2018). For housing discrimination, there is a one-year filing deadline.

 

For employment and housing charges, IDHR offers mediation services to provide an opportunity for the parties to resolve the allegations and related circumstances as quickly as possible, in lieu of an investigation. The charge may also be resolved during the investigation through a voluntary settlement agreement negotiated by the parties. A charge resolution may include policy changes, training, posting requirements, monetary damages, and more.

 

During the investigation, IDHR may obtain relevant documentation and speak with witnesses. After the investigation, IDHR prepares a written report with a recommendation on whether there is “substantial evidence” of a violation of the Act. Such a finding means there is enough evidence to take the case before an administrative law judge at the Illinois Human Rights Commission, a separate state agency that conducts public hearings.

How long will it take if I file a charge with IDHR?

The average processing time for a discrimination charge is less than one year. Under the Act, IDHR has up to 365 days to conduct an investigation, unless the parties agree to extend that time.

How long will it take if IDHR finds substantial evidence of discrimination and I file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission or in Circuit Court?

The adjudicatory process at the Human Rights Commission or in Circuit Court may take several years, unless the parties agree to resolve the complaint through a voluntary settlement.

How do I know which inspector general’s office has jurisdiction over my government employer?