Amendments to Illinois Human Rights Act may Increase Employment Law Litigation in Illinois Courts

Effective August 24, 2018, the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA") is amended by Public Act 100-1066.  Under the amended IHRA, complainants may opt out of the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") investigation and commence a lawsuit in circuit court.  To do so, complainants must submit, within 60 days after receipt of notice of the right to opt out, a written request seeking notice from the Director indicating that the Complainant has opted out of the investigation and may commence a civil action in the appropriate circuit court.  This amendment may dramatically change Illinois employment law litigation.  Plaintiff-side Illinois employment lawyers may choose to take advantage of the opt-out provision by quickly opting out of the IDHR investigation and filing employment lawsuits with jury demands in state court.  Before the amendment, IDHR complainants were required to wait 365 days from the charge filing date or until the IDHR investigator completed her investigation, before they could file a lawsuit in court.  With the long wait out of the way, the new opt-out provision may also influence plaintiff-side Illinois employment lawyers to file charges of discrimination first at the IDHR, rather than first at the EEOC.  It will still be crucial for complaining parties to have their charges cross-filed with both the IDHR and the EEOC, and to perfect all federal law and state law employment discrimination claims, in order to preserve the right to obtain complete relief.

The mechanics of the opt-out amendment provide as follows.  Within 10 days of the date the charge is filed, the IDHR shall serve a copy of the charge on the respondent and provide all parties with a notice of the complainant's right to opt out of the investigation within the 60-day opt-out period.  At any time within 60 days after receipt of notice of the right to opt out, a complainant may submit a written request seeking notice from the Director that the complainant has opted out of the investigation and may commence a civil action in circuit court.  The IDHR shall respond to a complainant's opt-out request within 10 business days by issuing the complainant a notice of right to commence an action in circuit court within 90 days after receipt of the notice.  The complainant must notify the IDHR and the respondent that a complaint has been filed with the circuit court and mail a copy of the complaint to the IDHR and the respondent on the same date that the complaint is filed. 

Public Act 100-1066 amends the IHRA is several other ways, including, significantly, changing the time-limitation within which a charge must be filed with the IDHR from 180 to 300 days after the date that a civil rights violation has allegedly been committed. 

The amendments essentially conform certain key procedures under the IHRA to parallel procedures under federal anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA, i.e., the 300-day limitation period within which to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and the 90-day notice of right to sue period after receipt of a notice of right to sue from the EEOC.