Religious Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination and Harassment Prohibited by Title VII

Title VII prohibits employers from subjecting employees to and adverse employment action on the basis of religion. Examples of adverse employment actions include constructive discharge, termination, refusal to hire, demotion, discrimination or harassment, and exposure to a hostile work environment. Employers are further prohibited under Title VII from taking part in retaliatory practices, should they oppose employment practices made unlawful by Title VII or participate in any way in a Title VII proceeding.

Title VII applies to employers who have at least fifteen employees working each day for the twenty weeks preceding the filing of the civil claim. Title VII applies to all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions.

In order to bring a civil claim under Title VII, an individual must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). From the date of the adverse action, employees typically have 300 days to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

The Illinois Human Rights Act

Moreover, religious discrimination violates Illinois state law. The Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-10, is generally administered by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”). The IHRA applies to all individuals, and in part makes it unlawful for an employer to subject an employee to an averse employment action on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental handicap, military status, or sexual orientation. Examples of adverse employment actions include constructive discharge, termination, refusal to hire, demotion, discrimination or harassment, and exposure to a hostile work environment. The IHRA moreover contains a provision making it unlawful to retaliate against employees who oppose discriminatory behavior or participate in any sort of proceeding relating to a complaint of discrimination.

In order to bring a civil claim under the IHRA, an injured employee must first exhaust the administrative remedies by filing a charge with the IDHR. From the date of the adverse action, employees have 180 days to file at the IDHR. Once the IDHR has progressed through investigation, and issued a finding, the employee may file a lawsuit in state court or proceed to the Human Rights Commission.

Remedies for Discrimination

Plaintiffs successful in bringing suit for religious discrimination or retaliation may be entitled to back pay, reinstatement or front pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees. In cases where the employer acted intentionally, with malice, or with reckless disregard, a successful plaintiff may also be awarded punitive damages. Under Title VII, both compensatory and punitive damages are statutorily capped based on the number of individuals employed by the employer. For employers with 15-100 employees, a plaintiff may be awarded no more than $50,000 in compensatory damages and no more than $50,000 in punitive damages for willful violations. For employees with 101-200 employees, the cap for each is $100,000. For employers with 201-500 employees, the cap is $200,000. For all other employers, the cap is $300,000 for each category of damages.

Our Employment Law Services

If you have questions about discrimination on the basis of religion, or feel that your employer has violated Title VII or the IHRA, contact Siegel & Dolan to speak to a Chicago employment lawyer.

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