The Commission on Human Relations receives, investigates, and rules on discrimination complaints filed under the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance and Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance. For more information about the kinds of discrimination these ordinances prohibit and what remedies are available, please see Discrimination Cases as well as the applicable Ordinances and Regulations.
Who can file a discrimination complaint?
You can file a complaint and pursue a discrimination claim at the Commission on Human Relations if you believe you have been personally harmed by a violation of either the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance or the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance.
You do not have to reside in the City of Chicago in order to file a complaint, but the alleged discrimination must have occurred in Chicago. The Commission must receive your complaint within 300 days of the incident, for incidents of discrimination occurring on or after January 23, 2019.
Telephone inquiries about complaint filing
You may telephone the Commission during business hours for information about filing a complaint. Please ask to speak with the intake staff person on duty for your type of complaint—employment, public accommodations, housing, credit transactions, bonding.
Although Commission staff cannot give you legal advice, staff can answer questions about—
- Whether the Human Rights or Fair Housing Ordinance covers the claim you want to make
- Other laws and agencies that may cover the type of claim you want to make
- Complaint-filing and other Commission procedures
We recommend contacting us by telephone first to discuss the complaint you wish to file. Then if the Commission on Human Relations does not have jurisdiction over your claim, you will have saved the time and effort of filing and we may be able to refer you to another agency.
Information you must provide in your complaint
Your complaint must contain the information listed below. See Commission Regulation 210.120(c) for details. Stating this information correctly is your responsibility. You will sign your complaint under oath, and you are subject to penalties for any false statements to the Commission. See Regs. 210.410 and 210.420.
- Your name, mailing address, and telephone number.
- The correct name of each business or individual person you accuse of an ordinance violation (the “respondent”). You may name more than one respondent.
- The full and correct mailing address of each respondent. The address must be sufficient to allow the Commission to “serve” the complaint by U.S. Mail.
- A description of the conduct, policy, or practice which you claim is discriminatory. This description must be sufficient to notify the Commission and the respondent of the timing, locations, and facts which set the scope of your complaint.
- The date of each discriminatory action you are alleging. The discrimination must have occurred within 300 days of the filing of the complaint, for incidents of discrimination occurring on or after January 23, 2019. See Reg. 210.120(a).
- The type/s of discrimination you claim as to each alleged discriminatory action, as well as your protected status with regard to each such claim. For example, if you are alleging national origin discrimination, you would state your national origin.
Help with drafting your complaint
You may come to the Commission’s office during announced business hours for help in drafting your complaint. We encourage you to take advantage of this assistance, because Commission staff are trained to discuss jurisdictional issues and draft complaints in the correct form. Please keep these points in mind when coming in for assistance:
- You must be prepared to provide the required information listed above. You are responsible for the accuracy and completeness of this information, not the Commission.
- Please arrive at least two hours before closing to allow enough time to interview you and write up a complaint for you to review and sign.
- Please bring any documents you have that support your claims, and the names and contact information for any witnesses. You can add to this information later as needed.
- Usually Spanish-speaking staff are available to help with complaints. If you need help in another language including sign language, and cannot bring your own interpreter with you, please have someone call the Commission for you at least 7 days in advance, so we can try to arrange for an interpreter.
- You will be asked to complete a Background Form with information to help in drafting the complaint. This document will become a part of your case file along with the complaint.
- Staff will review the background form, interview you, and draft a complaint for you to review. You are responsible to make sure the complaint is as you want it. Staff will make any corrections after you review the draft, then you will sign the complaint under oath.
- After you sign your complaint, staff will give you a photocopy along with the case number we have assigned.
Preparing and filing your own complaint
You may prepare your own complaint, or your attorney may prepare it for you. Please keep these points in mind about complaints you prepare yourself:
- You must use the Commission’s Complaint Form or something substantially equivalent which contains all the required information listed above.
- Complaints cannot exceed five pages without permission of the Commission.
- We recommend reviewing the following Commission publications along with Section 210.100 of the Commission’s regulations:
- You may file your complaint in person, by mail, or by fax. No e-mail filing is allowed. You must make sure your complaint is received on or before the 300-day deadline date, for incidents of discrimination occurring on or after January 23, 2019, at the Commission’s office during announced business hours. Please review Reg. 270.220(b) for further details about filing by mail or fax.
- If an attorney will be representing you in the case, he or she should file an Attorney Appearance along with the complaint, using the Commission’s form or any other format that meets the requirements of Regs. 270.310, 270.320, and 270.330.
- You are not required to serve your complaint on the respondent/s you have named. Complaints (and amended complaints during the investigation process) are the only documents the Commission serves for you. See Reg. 210.140. The Commission will mail you a copy of your complaint showing the case number assigned.
After you file a complaint
Accepting your complaint for filing does not mean the Commission has decided that an ordinance violation occurred. Complaint filing only starts the process of deciding the case.
The Commission will “serve” your complaint by U.S. Mail on each respondent you have named, pursuant to Reg. 210.140. You will also receive a mailing, which acknowledges receipt of your complaint and explains the Commission’s investigation and decision-making procedures. The mailing sets a deadline for you to file and serve a reply to any response received and to submit all “supporting documentation” you want considered when the Commission decides whether there is substantial evidence of an ordinance violation. It includes the following publication and forms which provide more information about the process:
Responsibilities during the case
Filing a discrimination complaint is a serious step. It starts a legal proceeding against the respondents which you are responsible to prosecute. You must promptly update your address and other contact information, and you must cooperate in the investigation and processing of the case. Failure to comply with Reg. 210.127 and other regulations, notices, or orders of the Commission may lead to dismissal of the complaint and monetary sanctions under Section 235 of the Commission’s Regulations.
You may need to file an amended complaint. It is especially important to file a timely amended complaint if a respondent engages in additional discriminatory or retaliatory conduct against you after you file your initial complaint, or if you forgot to describe a discriminatory action in your initial complaint.
Amended complaints are governed by specific (and sometimes complicated) rules and procedures, depending on when and why you wish to amend. It is important to consult these regulations as well as applicable case law:
- Reg. 210.145. Amendment to Cure Technical Defects or Omissions.
- Reg. 210.150. Amendment of Claims or Allegations.
- Reg. 210.160. Amendment to Add or Substitute Parties.
If your case is still in the investigation stage, the assigned investigator can help you prepare an amended complaint if one is needed. Please contact the investigator for an appointment; do not come to the office on a walk-in basis for this purpose (as you may have done for your initial complaint). If you have been ordered to amend the complaint, you must make the appointment enough in advance to meet the amendment deadline that was set. You may prepare an amended complaint yourself using the Commission’s Amended Complaint Form or something equivalent.
If the investigation has been completed and your case has advanced to the hearing stage, the Commission will not prepare any amended complaint for you. At that stage of the case, a motion to amend is required unless the amendment only cures a technical defect or omission. The hearing officer will rule on the motion.
Withdrawing a complaint
You may decide you no longer want to pursue your discrimination complaint, or some part of it. If that happens, you may withdraw your complaint by signing and submitting one of the forms listed below. The Commission will then issue a dismissal order.