Settlement and Mediation of Discrimination Cases

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 the Commission can order if a respondent is found in violation, please see Discrimination Cases as well as the applicable Ordinances and Regulations.   

The Commission’s approach to settlement

The Commission encourages the voluntary settlement of complaints but never requires that you settle or that you agree to particular settlement terms.  

Parties may settle a case between themselves at any time before the Commission’s final order completing the adjudication process.  Once the Commission receives the documents necessary to close a case by settlement, the case is dismissed without any right of reinstatement.

Any authorized Commission staff member may facilitate settlement discussions if the parties are willing, and may draft a settlement agreement reflecting the agreed terms for the parties to sign.  During the investigation process, the investigator assigned to the case may ask the parties if they are interested in discussing settlement and may offer to facilitate.

The Commission may also require the parties to participate in a settlement conference with an independent mediator appointed by the Commission.  If you receive an order scheduling a settlement conference, you must attend as explained in the order and enclosed documents.  A settlement conference is not a hearing and the mediator will not make any decisions in the case.

The Commission does not publicly disclose the content of any settlement discussions, such as what offers were made or rejected.  Such discussions are not relevant to the outcome of the case if it does not settle. 

For general information and rules about settlement of Commission complaints, please see Subpart 230 of the Commission’s regulations and the Commission’s publication Settlement and Mediation.

Although the Commission cannot advise you about what to offer or accept to settle a case, it may be helpful to review the Commission’s Board Rulings Digest to learn what kinds of remedies the Board of Commissioners has ordered for different types of discrimination. 

How to close a case by settlement

It is not enough just to tell the Commission that a case is settled.  To close the case and dismiss the complaint, the Commission must receive one of the two types of documents described below.  Be sure to consult Reg. 230.130 for the specific rules for each type of settlement closure. 

1.      Approved Settlement Agreement

An approved settlement agreement should be used if the parties have agreed that the Commission will “retain jurisdiction” for the purpose of seeking enforcement of the agreement if it is violated.  The Commission provides a form for an approved settlement agreement, which you can download by clicking on the link below.  Please note the following additional points about an acceptable settlement agreement:

  • You must submit the signed agreement to the Commission for its approval.  Even if the case settles during the hearing process, the Compliance Committee of the Commission must issue the order approving the agreement, not the hearing officer.
  • The Compliance Committee will approve the agreement and retain jurisdiction if it is:
  1.     Knowingly and voluntarily entered into
  2.     Unambiguously drawn
  3.     Capable of being enforced
  4.     Signed by persons with authority to do so
  5.     Consistent with the applicable ordinance
  • The Commission is not a party to the agreement (unless the complaint was initiated by the Commission as complainant).  None of the terms of the agreement can require the Commission to take any action (such as monitoring implementation, certifying compliance, writing policies, or providing training).  Please note that this is different from what happens at some other agencies.
  • Attorneys, especially outside counsel, may not sign a settlement agreement for a client unless the agreement includes a certification signed by the attorney or the client or other documentation that the attorney has authority to sign the agreement on the client’s behalf.
  • The Commission must be able to determine from the agreement itself who has signed it.  The Commission will not approve an agreement with an illegible signature and no printed name of the signer identified in the document.
  • The person signing for a business or other organization must be identified by title or position, sufficient to demonstrate authority to sign on behalf of the organization (e.g. owner, partner, president).  Alternatively, a signed certification or other documentation of the person’s authority to bind the organization can be included with the agreement.  The signature of general counsel who is a management-level employee of the organization is acceptable without additional certification.
  • An approved settlement agreement becomes a public record on closure of the case, unless for good cause a protective order has been entered.
  • Retained jurisdiction means that a party may by motion initiate the enforcement process described in Reg. 230.140.  The Commission may request the City of Chicago Department of Law to seek a state court judgment against a noncompliant party.

Settlement Agreement (form)

Motion for Continuance of a Settlement Conference (form)

Notice of Filing and Certificate of Service (form used with Motion for Continuance)

2.      Private Settlement

The private settlement procedure should be used if the parties are not interested in having the Commission retain jurisdiction to seek enforcement of the agreement, or if the parties do not want the settlement terms to become a public record.  Please keep these points in mind about a private settlement:

The Commission does not retain any jurisdiction to seek enforcement of a private settlement.  If there is noncompliance with the agreement, the injured party would need to seek enforcement without Commission assistance. This is typically done through an action in state court based on breach of contract.

The complainant must sign a request to withdraw the case, or the complainant’s attorney of record in the case may sign it (unlike the approved settlement agreement described above).  The Commission provides a form for requesting the voluntary withdrawal of a complaint pursuant to a private settlement agreement, which you can download by clicking on the link below.

If the case settled during the hearing process, the hearing officer issues the dismissal order.  If it settled during the investigation process, the Compliance Committee of the Commission issues the dismissal order.

In approving a request for voluntary withdrawal, the Commission considers only whether it was knowingly and voluntarily made.

Withdrawal Pursuant to Private Settlement Agreement (form)

Partial Settlement

Partial settlements of a complaint are possible if there are multiple respondents or multiple claims in one complaint.  For example, a complainant may settle with one respondent but not another, or may settle one claim but not another.  It is also possible for a complainant to settle with one respondent and withdraw the claim/s against any other respondent, or settle one claim and withdraw any other claim. 

If a complaint is settled only partially, an order will be issued dismissing the settled claim or respondent, and the case will proceed as to any remaining claim or respondent.  Once all claims are settled, withdrawn, or adjudicated, the case is closed.

Withdrawal of Complaint Against One or More Respondents (form)

Withdrawal of Particular Claim/s (form)

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