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.
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 180 days of the alleged discriminatory conduct.
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—
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.
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.
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 may prepare your own complaint, or your attorney may prepare it for you. Please keep these points in mind about complaints you prepare yourself:
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:
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:
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.
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.