• Illinois Human Rights Act Amended
  • February 5, 2005
  • Law Firm: Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP - Chicago Office
  • The Illinois Legislature recently amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to enable the Illinois Attorney General to file pattern and practice civil rights suits under the Act.

    The new law, codified at 775 ILCS 5/10-104, requires the Attorney General to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe an employer has engaged in a pattern and practice of unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Act. The law further requires the Attorney General to determine whether the dispute can be resolved without litigation. The law also permits voluntary compliance agreements in lieu of litigation.

    If efforts to resolve the dispute after the investigation is completed are unsuccessful, the new law authorizes the Attorney General to file a civil action in any appropriate circuit court as "parens patriae" to enforce the Human Rights Act. Such an action must be brought within two years after an alleged civil rights violation or breach of a conciliation agreement or voluntary compliance agreement, whichever occurs last. In addition to obtaining equitable relief as a remedy, the Attorney General also may request and the court may impose a civil penalty of up to $50,000, depending on the number of civil rights violations committed by the employer in the preceding five years.

    The procedures for complaints by individual employees seeking actual damages are unaffected by the new law. Those complaints will continue to be administered through the Illinois Department of Human Rights.