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Employers Take Heed: Discrimination Laws Are Not the Same Everywhere

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discrimination laws employers human rights employment lawEmployers that lose discrimination and other cases before the Illinois Human Rights Commission must meet a little-known requirement before filing an appeal.

According to Illinois courts, employers must first ask the commission to reconsider every ruling in an employee's favor. If not met, this condition, which stems from the need under Illinois law to exhaust all administrative remedies available before appealing to the local circuit court, can trap an employer and doom an appeal.

For the past few years, employees alleging discrimination under state law have had the option of either filing a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) or filing a lawsuit in court. Previously, employees had to file charges with the IDHR and try their cases before the commission.

Many employees, however, still elect to file an IDHR charge instead of suing in court. Once an employee chooses this non-judicial route, Illinois law requires that both the employee and the employer exhaust all administrative remedies available.

The IDHR first conducts an informal hearing to learn about the facts and decide whether sufficient evidence exists that discrimination may have occurred. If the IDHR determines that it does, then an administrative law judge at the commission holds a trial in which both the employee and the employer present all available evidence.

After the trial, the judge makes a recommended decision to a three-member panel of the commission. That panel then issues a final order, which is equivalent to a verdict in court.

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Robert Neiman

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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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