File a Complaint for Unlawful Discrimination or Harassment
The Commission investigates, mediates and, if warranted, adjudicates violations of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance. If you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination in the protected areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, credit or access to County programs, services or contracts, contact the Cook County Commission on Human Rights.
Protections against discrimination exist at many levels of government, including city, county, state, and federal. These protections vary by level of government, and some categories overlap. Where to file your complaint depends on where you live or work. For example, if a protection applies in Cook County but also applies in the City of Chicago, it is possible that your complaint should be filed with a City of Chicago agency. It is strongly recommended that you contact the Cook County Commission on Human Rights with questions about jurisdiction before filing a complaint to ensure you are filing at the applicable agency.
You may prepare your own complaint or have an attorney prepare one for you.
A complaint must contain the following:
- A statement of the facts alleged to constitute a violation of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance;
- The date of the alleged violation;
- The city and state where the alleged discriminatory acts occurred;
- The basis of the discrimination (examples included below); and
- Signature of complainant or their attorney.
Your complaint must be filed with the Commission within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation. Please note that there is no charge or fee for filing a complaint.
Where to File Complaints (Agency Grids):
Once you file a complaint with the Commission, the Commission notifies the respondent about the complaint and requires the respondent to submit a response admitting or denying each allegation of the complaint. The complaint is then assigned to an investigator who conducts a neutral fact-finding investigation that may include interviewing the parties and other witnesses, obtaining and reviewing documents and other physical evidence and submitting written questionnaires to you, the respondent and other witnesses.
It is important that you cooperate with the investigator assigned to your matter and provide them with the information they request at the time they request it. Failure to cooperate is grounds for dismissal of your case. In addition, please do not provide printed copies of pleadings, if they have been provided to the Commission via email (so as to minimize duplication).
In addition, because investigators are working on a number of cases simultaneously, the Commission asks that once you have a complaint on file that you make an appointment if you need to speak with your investigator about your case or want to provide them with additional information regarding the case. This ensures that each Commission complainant receives an investigator’s undivided attention and reduces delays in the investigative process across the Commission’s entire docket.
At the end of the neutral fact-finding investigation, the investigator submits a report to the Commission and the Commission determines whether or not there is substantial evidence of that violation of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance has occurred.
Remedies and Relief for Discrimination
If, upon completion of the investigation, the Commission finds substantial evidence of a violation of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance, the Commission will hold an administrative hearing on your complaint with a hearing officer. This process looks a lot like a civil case in a trial court and is used to ensure that the respondent has received due process before the Commission orders any remedies or relief.
At the end of this hearing, the Commission can order anyone who has been found to have discriminated or harassed in violation of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance to cease and desist; to pay actual damages or loss or injury suffered; to hire, reinstate or upgrade a complainant; to lease a house to a complainant; to extend to a complainant the full and equal enjoyment of services or facilities; and to pay all or part of a complainant’s costs (including attorneys’ fees). The Commission may also levy fines of $100.00 to $500.00 for each offense.
Many of the Commission’s cases are settled by the parties before a full adjudication on the merits. These settlements conserve the resources of both the parties and the Commission, so if at any time after filing a complaint, you are interested in mediating your dispute, please advise the Commission.
Examples of Discrimination
- Refusing to show or rent an apartment to a family because of their race or because they have children.
- Refusing to let a visually impaired person shop in a store or ride in a taxi because they have a service animal.
- Denying a qualified person a job, a promotion or benefits because of their sex or sexual orientation.