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Frequently Asked Questions 

 

PROCESS AFTER FILING A CHARGE


  1. What happens after a charge is filed?

  2. What is mediation?

  3. What happens if a party does not want mediation or if the mediation is not successful?

  4. If there was no successful mediation, can a case be settled during any other stage of the charge process?

  5. What is the Fact Finding Conference?

  6. At the Fact Finding Conference do I need an attorney to represent me?  Can I bring any other people to help me?

  7. What happens after the investigation is finished?

  8. How long does it take to see a result of an investigation?

  9. What remedies are available under the Act?

  10. What is the Human Rights Commission, and what happens to a case if it goes there?

What happens after a charge is filed?

After an investigator drafts a charge, the complainant (the person filing the charge) will be asked to review and sign the completed charge.  For non-housing charges, the complainant must also produce a picture ID before signing the charge in front of a notary public in our office.  If a charge is filed through the U.S. Mail, it will need to be signed and notarized, and mailed back to us.

Persons who file employment or public accommodations charges and are located in the Chicago area will be asked to consider participating in IDHR’s Mediation Program.  If both the complainant and the respondent (the party a charge is filed against) agree to try mediation, IDHR will attempt to schedule a mediation conference.

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What is mediation?

IDHR gives parties to employment discrimination charges an opportunity to attend a mediation conference in Chicago to discuss disputed issues and resolve their differences.  Mediation gives both parties the chance to be heard and give their side of the story, and also allows the parties to hear each other’s concerns and work toward a resolution.  A mediation conference can be scheduled soon after the charge is filed.  However, an investigation may take several months to be assigned, with additional time to complete the investigation.  Successful mediation results in a settlement of the charge that is voluntarily agreed to by both parties, and closure of the case before an investigation takes place.  (For more information, see the mediation fact sheet).

The mediator is neutral and does not represent either party nor decide the dispute.  The mediation conference is confidential and is not part of IDHR’s investigation.  There is no cost to either party for mediation.  Also, an attorney is not a requirement to participate, and the parties have the opportunity to resolve the dispute before spending a lot of time and money to prepare or defend a case.

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What happens if a party does not want mediation or if the mediation is not successful?

If a party does not want to mediate or the mediation fails to resolve the case, a Human Rights Investigator will conduct the investigation.  The investigator will contact both parties for information about the case.  The investigator may set up a fact-finding conference with both parties to learn more about the charge.  Both parties may be required to attend a fact-finding conference, which is a face-to-face meeting conducted by an IDHR Investigator.

To prepare for the investigation, a complainant should start organizing his/her information about the charge allegations as soon as possible.  Information needed for the investigation will include: 

  • A chronology of events:   Explain what happened for each of the numbered allegations in the charge.  Include dates, who was involved, and describe what happened.
  • A list of comparatives:   Identify other people in a similar position who were treated differently or better under the same or similar circumstances.  Include dates, who was involved, and describe what happened.
  • A list of witnesses:   Identify people who observed or participated in the events.
  • Documentation:   Provide evidence relevant to the numbered allegations in the charge.  Relevant documentation may include workplace policies, performance evaluations, accommodation requests, disclipine or discharge documents, etc.

For any reason identified, the person's full name, job title, and contact information will be needed.

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If there was no successful mediation, can a case be settled during any other stage of the charge process?

At any stage of the investigation, the parties can voluntarily agree to settle and resolve the case.  Because both parties are present in person, the possibility of settlement is always discussed at the fact-finding conference.

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What is a Fact Finding Conference?

A fact-finding conference is a meeting in which each party has the opportunity to present its side and respond to opposing viewpoints.  It is an investigative tool designed to secure either a thorough investigation or an early voluntary settlement.  The investigator will make sure that all parties have a full and fair opportunity to present their facts and evidence.  Failure to attend the fact-finding conference without a good reason can result in dismissal of the charge for complainants or default for respondents.

During a typical fact finding conference, the following will occur:

  • The Investigator will question the parties and allow the complainant and the respondent alternate opportunities to respond and/or rebut the other party’s statements and to present documents or testimony in support of their own position.
  • The conference is not a formal hearing; no tape recordings are allowed and no stenographic transcript is produced by IDHR.  The Investigator takes informal notes of the statements and responses.  In accordance IDHR’s Regulations, these investigative notes are privileged and are not given to either party.
  • The Investigator may identify and request further documentation necessary to investigate the charge.

A fact-finding conference will be held in Chicago for alleged violations occurring in the Chicago metropolitan area.  For violations occurring outside of the six-county Chicago metropolitan area, the fact-finding conference will generally be held in or near the city or municipality where the alleged violation occurred.

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At the Fact Finding Conference do I need an attorney to represent me?  Can I bring other people to help me?

If a fact-finding conference is held, either party may bring legal counsel if the attorney has entered a “Notice of Appearance.”  However, attorneys have a role that is strictly advisory and they may not testify at the conference except on matters of which they have first-hand knowledge, nor may they ask direct questions of either party.

  • Complainants not represented by legal counsel may bring a friend or relative to the fact-finding conference for advice and moral support; however, that individual may testify only on matters of which he or she has first-hand knowledge relating to the charge.
  • Witnesses may also participate in the fact-finding conference, but they will be called at the discretion of the Investigator.
  • Persons may bring an interpreter at their own expense, if needed.
  • Participants who need accommodation of a disability in order to participate in a fact-finding conference should contact the Investigator, or IDHR’s ADA Coordinator.

Sometimes, particularly in housing cases, the Investigator will not convene a fact-finding conference.  Instead, the Investigator will gather the necessary facts and evidence in separate contacts with the complainant and respondent(s) via letter(s), phone, and on-site interviews or by individual conferences.

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What happens after the investigation is finished?

After the investigation, a written report is prepared recommending whether or not there is “substantial evidence” of a violation of the Act.  A finding of “substantial evidence” means that complainant has the option of either 1) requesting (within the time period specified in the Act) IDHR to file a complaint, on complainant’s behalf, with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, OR 2) commencing a civil action (within the time period specified in the Act) in a state circuit court of appropriate venue.  At this point, the complainant must prove the case before the Commission or circuit court of appropriate venue.

If IDHR makes a finding of “lack of substantial evidence” of discrimination, it will dismiss the charge.  A complainant whose case has been dismissed may, within the timeframe specified in the Act, either 1) file a request for review of a dismissal with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, OR 2) commence a civil action in a state circuit court of appropriate venue.  In housing cases, only option #1 applies.  Respondent may file a request for review of a default finding with the Human Rights Commission within the timeframe specified in the Act.

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How long does it take to see a result of an investigation?

The Illinois Human Rights Act requires that IDHR conclude all proceedings and make a finding within 365 days of filing a perfected (signed and notarized) charge or as extended by written agreement of the parties.  The Act requires housing charges to be completed within 100 days of filing unless it is impracticable to do so, and to notify the parties in writing of the reasons for not doing so.

If necessary, the Investigator may request that both parties sign an extension of time to give IDHR more time to conduct a thorough investigation of the case.  If one of the parties refuses to sign an extension, and if IDHR does not issue a complaint or a notice of dismissal within 365 days after the date the charge was filed, the complainant may (within the timeframe specified in the Act) file a complaint at the Human Rights Commission or in some circumstances a civil action in the circuit court.  If the complainant does not file a complaint within the required timeframe, the charge will be dismissed.

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What remedies are available under the Act?

Complainants who prevail on a claim of discrimination under the Act may recover:

  • Actual damages for injury or loss suffered;
  • Specific relief such as hire, reinstatement, promotion, back pay, fringe benefits;
  • Attorney fees; and
  • Other relief to make the Complainant whole.

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What is the Human Rights Commission, and what happens to a case if it goes there?

The Human Rights Commission is a separate state agency that conducts public hearings on complaints filed by IDHR or by complainant within the timeframe explained above (Q8).  The administrative law judge hears testimony, receives evidence and determines whether unlawful discrimination occurred.  IDHR does not represent either party at the Commission, and recommends that both parties obtain legal representation to properly present or defend the case before the administrative law judge and the Human Rights Commission.

During the preparation of the public hearing, both parties will engage in a discovery process that includes depositions of witnesses.  If the complainant prevails at the Human Rights Commission level, the judge can order remedies allowed by the Act to make the Complainant “whole.”  Each case is different and some or all forms of remedies may not apply to your particular case.

(View the charge process flow chart).

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