The Midwestern state of Illinois is often regarded as the most perfectly “average” U.S. state. In fact, in terms of geographic area, it is exactly in the middle (just under 58,000 square miles), and Illinois was admitted to the union as the 21st state – also very close to the middle.

Demographically, culturally, and economically, Illinois is a microcosm of the nation. However, its diversity is not distributed evenly. The port city of Chicago (also known as “Second City” or “The Windy City”) sits on a natural harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan and has a large African American population and urban workforce. Chicago boasts a teeming catalogue of industries, whose diversity rivals those of the coastal cities of New York and Los Angeles. The central and southern portions of Illinois, including the capital, Springfield, are more rural, racially and ethnically homogenous and dependent on agricultural industries.

The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) oversees the rights, safety, and welfare of the state’s laborers. IDOL is an umbrella organization, however; and different employment, harassment, and compensation claims need to be filed under different sub-agencies. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, for instance, handles worker comp complaints. The Illinois Department of Employment Security processes unemployment requests and issues. The Department of Human Rights oversees antidiscrimination laws as pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Thanks to the strong traditional political power of labor in the state, Illinois workers have an abundance of tools to fight back against employer harassment and discrimination. It's illegal under state law for employers to discriminate on the basis of marital status, disability, sexual orientation, age, citizenship status, ancestry, religion, race, gender, skin color, and unfavorable military discharge.

Discrimination and harassment can take many different forms, but often includes prejudicial hiring practices, unequal pay, wrongful demotion or termination, unfair transfer or reassignment, loss of benefits, inadequate training, and failure to promote. Sexual harassment includes any unwanted sexual advance, such as demands for sexual favors, public distribution of pornographic or publically explicit materials, crude jokes, offensive remarks, inappropriate touching, sexual gestures, and more.

When employees report these illegal acts, they are protected under state and federal retaliation laws. These laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee for reporting incidents of discrimination or harassment and convey particular rights to these “whistle-blowers.”

Notwithstanding the tough laws on the books designed to protect Illinois workers, many unfavorably treated laborers do not or cannot obtain the help they need with antidiscrimination and/or harassment cases. Part of the problem may stem from persistent political corruption, which can slow down the effective execution of claims.

In early 2009, for instance, Illinois citizens endured the humiliation of watching their Governor, Rod Blagojevich, caught on tape trying to sell the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. In a separate but nearly simultaneous incident, a chief state bureaucrat (appointed by Blagojevich) found herself sued for sexual harassment and retaliation for trying to coerce one of her subordinates into sleeping with her and then firing him when he refused.

For fast and accurate help with your Illinois workplace discrimination case, turn to an informed local attorney. For help finding that attorney, please click here.

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