Posted On: September 21, 2008

Illinois Department of Human Rights Client Interview

After a verified answer is received by the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), the investigator from the IDHR will call and schedule a client interview. The interview will either take place at the Thompson Center in Chicago, the Springfield Office or via telephone. The Complainant is allowed to have her attorney present during the client interview although the attorney is there to advise not to answer questions. Having a skilled sexual harassment lawyer present during the interview can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful case.

The purpose of the client interview is for the investigator from the IDHR to learn about the case. The investigator wants a first person account of what happened, who witnessed what happened, who if any you reported the harassment to and the location of documents or other witnesses that may help the investigator obtain a complete picture of what took place.

It is important for the complainant and attorney to work together to make sure any names, location of documents or other relevant information are gathered and given to the investigator during the client interview. As the investigator has the ability to require the employer to produce documents and witnesses at the fact-finding conference, it is extremely important to get all of the information to the investigator at or prior to the client interview.

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Posted On: September 19, 2008

IDHR Fact Finding Conference

Once a charge is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), and the company is served with the charge and responds a client interview will be conducted. After the interview a fact-finding conference will be conducted by the investigator for the IDHR and will include the

Complainant and her attorney, the Respondent and their attorney and any witnesses that the investigator wishes to invite.

All documents or other non-testimonial evidence submitted by any party in support of their position must be submitted to the investigator prior to the fact finding conference.
At the conference, any party may be accompanied by an attorney, however the attorney is not allowed to ask questions directly as the fact finding conference is not an adversarial proceeding.

The attorney may only advise his client at the proceeding. Investigators however will allow the attorney to write questions and pass them to the investigator. If the investigator deems the question relevant, the investigator may ask it.

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Posted On: September 18, 2008

The Illinois Cooper v. Salazar Injunction: A Relief for Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawyers

As of November 1, 2001, the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") has been under a federal-court injuction that among other things, orders the IDHR to "cease permanently from relying on credibility determinations made without affording the rights of confrontation and cross-examination." Cooper v. Salazar, 98 C 2930 U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois at page 26. This case was followed closely by Illinois Sexual Harassment lawyers.

The purpose of the injuction is to deny the Department the ability to assess the credibility of witnesses where there is conflicting testimony. This applies to all witnesses whether they are for the complainant or respondent. In short, if the determination of substantial evidence turns on issues of credibility, the IDHR must make a finding of substantial evidence so the trier of fact may resolve the issue of credibility.

The Illinois Human Rights Act defines substantial evidence as "evidence which a reasonable mind accepts as sufficient to support a particular conclusion and which consists of more than a mere scintilla but may be somewhat less than a preponderance." 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(D)(2).

Conflicting evidence exists when there are statements of a person with material first hand knowledge contradicted by statements of a different person with marerial first hand knowledge; or business records contradicted or oral statements of a person with material first hand knowledge; or business records of one person contradicted by business records of another person.

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Posted On: September 14, 2008

Illinois Sexual Harassment Victims Should Keep a Journal

If you live in Illinois and are the victim of sexual harassment the two best things you can do to help yourself are first, hire a good Illinois sexual harassment attorney and second is to keep a journal of the events. Many times the sexual harassment will last weeks or months with many "little" things taking place that constitute harassment.

By keeping a journal complete with names, dates, other witnesses to the sexual harassment and references to meetings and emails, the employee can strengthen her case. Investigators for the Illinois Department of Human Rights are overworked and understaffed and a good journal will help set your case apart from the many other cases they have.

If the employee decides to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), whether in Chicago or Springfield, it may be six months to a year from the date of the harassment before a fact-finding conference will take place. Having a journal to refresh your memory and provide accurate information such as dates and times is extremely important and makes ones case seem solid.

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Posted On: September 7, 2008

Illinois Sexual Harassment: Disparate Treatment vs. Disparate Impact

In Illinois as in other states there are two theories of liability regarding sexual harassment claims. Illinois Sexual Harassment attorney Peter LaSorsa speaks about both on his video--One is disparate treatment and the other is disparate impact.

Disparate treatment bases the claim on whether the claimant was treated different than other employees who are similarly situated. In International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1997) the United States Supreme Court held that disparate treatment occurs when "the employer simply treats some people less favorably than others because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin."

Disparate impact bases the claim on whether a facially neutral company policy or other customary practice of the company has a discriminatory impact on a protected class of employees to which the claimant belongs.

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Posted On: September 3, 2008

Sexual Harassment Statutory Caps Under Title VII

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981a. statutory caps on damages are imposed for both compensatory and punitive damages. This includes Illinois sexual harassment cases. The combined damage caps are based on the number of employees an employer has working for it. The breakdown is as follows:

  • For employers who have 15 to 100 workers: $50,000;
  • For employers who have 101 to 200 workers: $100,000;
  • For employers who have 201 to 500 workers: $200,000;
  • For employers who have in excess of 500 workers: $300,000.

Having an experienced sexual harassment lawyer review the facts of the case to determine the size of the employer is critical. Many times employers can hide the number of employers or miscount through an elaborate scheme designed to hide the true number of employees.

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Posted On: September 2, 2008

Constructive Discharge

The United States Supreme Court ruled in Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders, 124 S. Ct. 2342 (2004) that in a constructive discharge case, the plaintiff's resignation is an appropriate response to intolerable working conditions.

An employee may be constructively discharged if she resigns because of intolerable working conditions caused by sexual harassment. In order to prove constructive discharge the plaintiff must show:

  • Defendant intention to make the plaintiff's working conditions intolerable;
  • Defendant subjected plaintiff to sexual harassment; and
  • The plaintiff was forced to quit because the defendant's sexual harassment created the intolerable working conditions.

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Posted On: September 1, 2008

Negotiate a Pre-Litigation Settlement

In sexual harassment cases, as in other types of cases, settlement is the rule not the exception. Given that settlement negotiations will likely occur, what are the advantages to a pre-litigation settlement?

  • For both parties pre-litigation settlement is less expensive than filing a claim and litigating the claim.

    The cost of defense to the employer may well make it worth settling a claim early. When drafting a demand letter to opposing counsel or to the company if they have not yet retained counsel, always include a reasonable estimate of what you believe the cost of defense may be in the case. Sexual harassment cases usually involve issues of fact, thereby precluding summary judgment and thus enabling a case to go to trial.

    Make sure your pre-litigation demand letter points out both the likelihood the case would go to trial and the cost involved.

  • In pre-litigation settlements, both parties can control the process which enables the parties to negotiate unique remedies that a Court may not be able to provide. The parties are also in the position to dispose of the dispute quickly without disruption to the work environment or business.
  • A pre-litigation settlement is private and are no public records of the allegations or settlement.

  • Damages are negotiated and the unpredictability of litigation is avoided. With the new law regarding filing a sexual harassmentt claim with the circuit court, large jury verdicts are now possible.
  • A pre-litigation settlement allows the parties to resolve the matter before both parties are emotionally and financially invested in the case.

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