Decisions & Precedents in Discrimination Cases
All precedential decisions of the Commission on Human Relations are available to the public, as explained below. The Commission also publishes a Subject Matter Index and a Board Rulings Digest to help you identify decisions about particular subjects of interest to you.
Rulings of the Board of Commissioners:
Recent rulings of the Board of Commissioners are available on this website. To read or download them, click on the link below for the year when the decision was made. The year appears in parentheses after the case name and case number in a typical citation of the decision.
More Information You Can Download:
What is a Precedential Decision?
The Commission on Human Relations has issued many decisions over the years which interpret and apply Chicago’s discrimination ordinances and the Commission’s implementing regulations. A “precedential decision” or “precedent” is a decision that can be cited as legal authority in a later case before the Commission. It is also known as a “published” decision, and precedential decisions are often described as “case law.” Each precedential decision is a written legal opinion which explains how the Commission has interpreted and applied the law to the facts of a particular case. The Commission’s regulations about precedents are found on pages 46-47 of the Regulations Booklet. They are Reg. 270.510 (Applicable Precedent), Reg. 270.520 (Citation Form), and Reg. 270.530 (Publication and Copies of Decisions).
All final rulings of the Board of Commissioners are precedential. These are the Commission’s final decisions about (a) whether a respondent violated one of the discrimination ordinances as claimed in the complaint and (b) what remedies the Commission ordered if a violation was found. They follow an administrative hearing conducted before a hearing officer appointed by the Commission, who receives the evidence and issues a recommended decision.
The Board Rulings Digest
The Board Rulings Digest is a booklet published by the Commission which lists and summarizes rulings of the Board of Commissioners (after administrative hearings) for easy reference. The Commission updates the Board Rulings Digest every few months to add new decisions. People often consult the Board Rulings Digest for a general sense of how the Commission has ruled in certain types of cases, especially to find out what was ordered in damages, fines, and other relief.
Other Precedential Decisions
In addition to Board rulings, the Commission designates certain other decisions as precedents. These are usually called “orders.” They may be issued (a) by senior staff of the Commission who have been authorized by the Chair/Commissioner to issue such orders or (b) by a hearing officer during pre-hearing or post-hearing proceedings.
These decisions often resolve important legal issues such as:
- Whether the Commission has jurisdiction over a certain type of claim.
- The legal sufficiency of complaints and investigations.
- Whether a party has complied with Commission orders or procedures, and what penalties should be imposed for noncompliance.
- What penalties should be imposed for failure to comply with Commission regulations or orders.
- What discovery will be allowed and other issues related to hearings procedures.
Not all Commission orders are published as precedents, but only those which the Commission determines to have precedential value for one of the following reasons:
- The decision states a new rule of law.
- The decision modifies, criticizes, or clarifies an existing rule of law.
- The decision resolves a conflict in prior decisions.
- The decision contributes to an understanding of existing law.
- The decision resolves a case of substantial or continuing public interest.
The Subject Matter Index
The Commission publishes a Subject Matter Index which lists and briefly describes all precedential decisions from May 1990 until the date of the latest update. The Index is organized by topics and subtopics for purposes of legal research. The latest version merges and replaces the previous Volume 1 and Volume 2 and covers decisions from May 1990 through December 2014.
To download and access the Index, click on Subject Matter Index Information, where you will also find more instructions.
You may purchase a copy of the Subject Matter Index in paper form by submitting the Subject Matter Index Order Form. The cost is $70. You may also inspect a copy of the Index at no charge either at the Commission’s office or at the Cook County Law Library, as explained in the next section.
Researching Commission Precedents at the Cook County Law Library
You may find it easiest to research and review the Commission’s Subject Matter Index and precedential decisions in paper form at the Cook County Law Library. This is a free, public law library located on the 29th Floor of the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington Street in downtown Chicago. It is not necessary to be an attorney to use this law library on weekdays. For current hours and information, please contact the library at 312.603.5423 or you may visit their website by clicking on the following link:
Obtaining Copies of Precedential Decisions
The Commission has not yet published all of its precedential decisions on this website. We are posting new Board of Commissioners rulings on the website and adding older ones as time permits.
You may arrange to read one or more decisions at no charge at the Commission’s office, or you may purchase a paper copy at a cost of 15 cents per page prepaid. Please call ahead. We cannot guarantee availability of decisions without advance notice of at least two working days.
To arrange to inspect or purchase precedential decisions, please contact the Commission’s docket clerk at 312.744.2863. You need to give us the case name (complainant and respondent), case number, and date of each decision. Sometimes more than one precedential decision has been issued in a case, so the decision date is needed to understand which one you want. Payment for purchases must be made before copies are released, either by cash (exact change) or by check or money order payable to the City of Chicago. The Commission cannot guarantee turnaround time of less than one working day on typical copying requests.
Citing a Commission Decision
When requesting a precedential Commission decision, or citing it in a brief or other submission, you must include three elements in order to identify the decision:
- Case name
- Commission case number
- Date of the decision
This is an example of a correct citation:
Smith v. ABC Company and Jones, CCHR No. 01-E-100, (Jan. 6, 2003)
Other Legal Authority
Sometimes the Commission has not yet made a precedential decision about a legal issue that may arise in a case. In that situation (an issue of “first impression”), the Commission looks for guidance to decisions interpreting other relevant laws. If you are planning to cite a decision from another jurisdiction (e.g. state or federal courts, or another government agency that decides discrimination cases), you must include a copy of the decision with your brief or other submission in which you are citing the case. See Reg. 270.520.
Please keep in mind that the Chicago Commission on Human Relations is not necessarily bound by decisions which interpret or apply other discrimination laws (e.g. the Illinois Human Rights Act and federal civil rights laws—such as Title VII (prohibiting employment discrimination), the Fair Housing Amendments Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). We are not enforcing those laws but only the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance and Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance.
Thus we look first to our own precedents, then if needed to decisions under similar laws. And, of course, we are bound by Illinois and federal appellate decisions on applicable constitutional issues.