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DISCRIMINATION AGAINST VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC OR SEXUAL VIOLENCE

The Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act provide some measures of protection for persons under orders of protection because of domestic violence from employment discrimination. Each statute has its limitations.

ILLINOIS HUMAN RIGHTS ACT – ORDER OF PROTECTION STATUS

Thes Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-103(K-5) defines “order of protection status” as a person’s status as being a person protected under an order of protection issued pursuant to the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 (750 ILCS 60/101, et seq.) or an order of protection issued by a court of another state. The Illinois Human RIghts Act 775 ILCS 5/1-103(Q) defines unlawful discrimination as meaning discrimination against a person because of his/her order of protection status. The Illinois Human RIghts Act, 775 ILCS 5/2-102(A) makes it a civil rights violation for any employer to refuse to hire, discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against a person because of his/her order of protection status.

RETALIATION:

The Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/6-101, makes it a civil rights violation to retaliate against any person because he or she opposed that which he or she reasonably and in good faith believes is unlawful discrimination on the basis of order of protection status.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: 

The Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A)(1) requires any person with a claim for discrimination based on “order of protection status” and/or retaliation to file a Charge of Discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human RIghts within 180 days after the date of the civil rights violation.

ALLOWS FOR JURY TRIAL: 

The Illinois Human RIghts Act, 775 ILCS 5/8-111, allows a person subject to discrimination on the basis of “order of protection status” or who was retaliated against to bring an action in the circuit courts with a right to a jury trial. A victim of discrimination on the basis of “order of protection status” and/or retaliation is free to seek any and all remedies allowed under 775 ILCS 5/8A-104 for a jury. The remedies available under the Illinois Human Rights Act are significantly broader than the remedies allowed under the Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act and there is no right to a jury trial under the Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act.

If you would like to learn more about your right to be free from discrimination and retaliation on the basis of your “order of protection status,” contact Brian J. Graber, Ltd., at (312) 291-4648 for a free consultation.

VICTIM’S ECONOMIC SECURITY AND SAFETY ACT (VESSA)

VESSA, 820 ILCS 180/15(2) was passed in part, to address the failure of existing laws to protect the employment rights of employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and employees with a family or householder member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence to take unpaid leave to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning or other assistance without penalty from their employers by prohibiting employers from discriminating against any employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence or any employee who has a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence.

ENTITLEMENT TO LEAVE DUE TO DOMESTIC OR SEXUAL VIOLENCE: 

VESSA, 820 ILCS 180/20, allows an employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence or who has a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence to take unpaid leave from work to address domestic or sexual violence by: (1) seeking medical attention; obtaining services from victim services organization; (3) obtaining psychological or other counseling; (4) participating in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocating or other actions; and (5) seeking legal assistance or remedies, including preparing and participating in criminal or civil legal proceedings related to domestic or sexual violence.

VESSA, 820 ILCS 180/20(2) may allow an employee working for an employer that employs at least 50 employees to take 12 workweeks leave during any 12-month period. An employee working for an employee that employs at least 15 but not more than 49 employees may be entitled to a total of 8 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period.

VESSA PREVENTS EMPLOYERS FROM DISCRIMINATING AGAINST EMPLOYEES: 

VESSA, 820 ILCS 180/30, prohibits employers from failing to hire, refusing to hire, discharging, constructively discharging, or harassing or discriminating against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment or retaliating against any individual because: (1) the individual is or is perceived to be a victim of domestic or sexual violence; (2) attended, participated in or prepared for a criminal or civil court proceeding relating to an incident of domestic or sexual violence; (3) took leave pursuant for any reason allowed by VESSA, 820 ILCS 180/20; (4) requested an adjustment to a job structure, work requirement, including transfer or reassignment or implementation of a safety procedure in response to actual or threatened domestic or sexual violence, regardless of whether the request was granted; (5) is an employee whose employer is subject to 820 ILCS 275/21; or (6) the workplace is disrupted or threatened by the action of a person whom the individual states has committed or threatened to commit domestic or sexual violence against the individual or the individual’s family or household member.

VESSA STATUTE OF LIMITATION:

VESSA, 820 ILCS 180/35(1) provides for a three year statute of limitations to file a complaint against an employer with the Illinois Department of Labor. Under VESSA, 820 ILCS 180/10(10) a private employer must employ at least 15 employees in order to be covered under the provisions of VESSA.

VESSA REMEDIES: 

Unfortunately, VESSA does not provide for a jury trial for an employer’s unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation. An employee must file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor and proceed through an administrative adjudication. If the Illinois Department of Labor finds that an employer violated an employees rights under VESSA, the Illinois Department of Labor may award back pay damages, equitable relief such as hiring, reinstatement, and promotion; and reasonable attorney’s fees, reasonable expert witness fees and other costs to be paid by the employer.

If you would like to learn more about your rights under the Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act, contact Brian J. Graber, Ltd., at (312) 291-4648 for a free consultation.