Federal law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against a protected class. Protected classes include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, and citizenship. In Illinois, the law includes additional protected classes such as mental or perceived handicap, sexual orientation, and military status.
To file a discrimination claim under Illinois law, the claim can be filed with the state agency or the federal agency. The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have a cooperative relationship allowing aggrieved parties to a file a claim with either agency. For all employment discrimination claims other than sexual harassment based claims, the employer must have more than 15 employees for the aggrieved party to file a discrimination claim.
In order to bring a valid employment discrimination case, the plaintiff must make a showing that 1) he is a member of a protected class, 2) he was qualified for the job and was performing the job satisfactorily, 3) he was fired by the employer, and 4) he was replaced by someone not in the protected class.
Federal law prevents an employer from engaging in discrimination retaliation after an employee has made a good faith claim of discrimination. Not everything an employer does it considered retaliation. Only when an employer changes his conduct towards you and that has an adverse effect on your employment is it considered discriminating retaliation. The most obvious case of retaliation is if you make a complaint, and you are immediately fired or demoted. Usually, however, an employer retaliation is not this clear cut.
Many cases are settled at the administrative level. But sometimes, it is not possible for the parties to reach a mutual agreement. If the case cannot be resolved by the federal or state administrative bodies, it will be necessary to pursue your claim in court. A plaintiff must exhaust all administrative remedies before seeking the involvement of the court. Under Illinois law, there is no private cause of action for employment discrimination, which means that discrimination lawsuits cannot be filed in Illinois state court.
If you chose to pursue the lawsuit after administrative remedies have been exhausted, this is the time to seek the help of an experienced employment lawyer who is familiar with Illinois and Chicago employment law.