Both parties may be required to attend a fact-finding conference, which is a meeting conducted by an IDHR Investigator. It is an investigative tool designed to secure either a thorough investigation or a voluntary settlement. Each party presents its side of the dispute and responds to the opposing side. Failure to attend the fact-finding conference without a good reason can result in dismissal of the charge for the Complainant or default for Respondent.
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.
It is not required that either party be represented by an attorney. The Investigator will make sure that all parties have a full and fair opportunity to present their facts and evidence. Complainants not represented by legal counsel may bring a friend or relative to the conference for advice and moral support; however, that individual may testify only on matters of which s/he has first-hand knowledge relating to the charge. In addition, the Complainant may bring an interpreter to the conference if needed. Witnesses may also participate in the fact-finding conference, but they will be present at the discretion of the Investigator.
The Investigator will question the parties and allow the Complainant and Respondent alternate opportunities to respond and/or rebut the other party’s statements. During this time both parties are allowed to present documents or testimony in support of their own position. The Investigator may identify and request further documentation necessary to investigate the charge.
The Investigator takes informal notes of the statements and responses. In accordance with the Illinois Department of Human Rights Regulations, these investigative notes are privileged and may not be given to either party. The conference is not a formal hearing and no stenographic transcripts are produced by IDHR.
Sometimes, the Investigator will not convene a fact-finding conference. If a conference is not held, the Investigator will gather the facts and evidence in separate contacts with the Respondent and Complainant via letter(s), phone, on-site interviews or by individual conferences.