EEO Handbook Statement: Illinois

Author: Amy E. Mendenhall, Marissa L. Dragoo, Corinn Jackson, and Judith A. Paulson, Littler

When to Include

Illinois employers should include this statement in their handbook. Illinois has a number of laws addressing employment discrimination, which differ in terms of what categories they protect and the employers they cover.

The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) generally applies to employers that have 15 or more employees working in Illinois. However, the IHRA's sexual harassment, pregnancy and disability provisions apply to Illinois employers that have one or more employees. Illinois laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of genetic information, use of lawful products outside of work and homelessness (i.e., lack of a permanent mailing address or a mailing address that is a shelter or social services provider), apply to all Illinois employers, as does the Illinois Equal Pay Act.

This policy can be customized to include only those categories protected under the laws applicable to each employer. However, even Illinois employers that do not have enough employees to meet the threshold for a specific law (e.g., the 15 employees to be covered under many of the IHRA's antidiscrimination provisions) should still consider including those categories in their equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy statement. Including these categories allows employers to be compliant in the event that they add enough employees to meet the threshold number. Also, employers may be subject to other types of claims or liability on the basis of discriminatory conduct.

It is important to be aware that employers assume some risk by adopting a policy with protections the employer is not legally required to provide (e.g., a claim that the employer created a contractual promise to not discriminate on those bases). Accordingly, employers should include additional protections in a policy statement only if they intend to implement and comply with them.

Employers should consult legal counsel for assistance in customizing a policy statement regarding Illinois' antidiscrimination laws.

Customizable Handbook Statement

Equal Employment Opportunity

As set forth in the National Handbook, [Company Name] is committed to equal employment opportunity and to compliance with federal antidiscrimination laws. We also comply with Illinois law, which prohibits discrimination and harassment against any employees or applicants for employment based on race, color, sex (including married women and unmarried mothers), religion, age (40 or older), national origin, ancestry, marital status, protective order status, military status, unfavorable discharge from military service, sexual orientation (including actual or perceived orientation and gender identity), citizenship status, genetic information, ancestry, religion, pregnancy (including childbirth or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, past pregnancy condition and the potential or intention to become pregnant), certain arrest or criminal history records, homelessness (i.e., lack of a permanent mailing address or a mailing address that is a shelter or social services provider) and use of lawful products outside of work during nonworking hours. The Company will not tolerate discrimination or harassment based upon these characteristics or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local law.

The Company also complies with the Illinois law that restricts the circumstances under which employers may base employment-related decisions on an individual's credit report or credit history.

Guidance for Employers

  • This statement is intended to be used together with a federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy statement.
  • In addition to the federal EEO laws, Illinois employers must comply with a number of state antidiscrimination laws, including the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA).
  • The IHRA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age (40 or older), sex, marital status, protective order status, disability, military status, unfavorable discharge from military service, sexual orientation, citizenship status, pregnancy (including childbirth or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, past pregnancy condition and the potential or intention to become pregnant), homelessness (i.e., lack of a permanent mailing address or a mailing address that is a shelter or social services provider), arrest records and expunged or sealed criminal convictions.
  • An employer must treat women affected by a pregnancy condition the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other job applicants or employees not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, regardless of the source of the inability to work or employment classification or status. An employer also may not deny employment opportunities or benefits, or otherwise take an adverse action against a qualified job applicant or employee because the job applicant or employee requested or needed an accommodation for her known pregnancy condition.
  • Illinois extends protection from harassment to unpaid interns and allows interns to bring sexual harassment claims.
  • For purposes of the IHRA, "order of protection status" means a person's status as being covered by an order of protection issued under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 (IDVA) or by a court of another state.
  • While employers generally may consider previous criminal convictions in making employment decisions, the use of arrest information or sealed or expunged convictions is prohibited under Illinois law.
  • Illinois law prohibits employers from penalizing a person solely because of his or her status as a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver for purposes of medical marijuana unless failing to do so would put the employer in violation of federal law or cause it to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or rules. Employers are permitted to enforce a policy concerning drug testing, zero-tolerance, or a drug-free workplace provided the policy is applied in a nondiscriminatory manner. An employer can also consider a registered qualifying patient to be impaired when he or she manifests specific, articulable symptoms while working that decrease or lessen the employee's performance of the duties or tasks of his or her position.
  • Illinois' Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (RTPWA) prohibits discrimination against employees who use lawful products away from the employer's premises during nonworking hours.
  • Illinois' Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act (BRHA) protects the homeless and attempts to "lessen the adverse effects and conditions caused by the lack of a residence or a home" by:
    • Prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on their housing status, which is defined as the status of having or not having a fixed regular residence, including the status of living on the streets, in a shelter or in a temporary residence;
    • Specifying that an individual should not suffer or be subject to unfair discrimination based on his or her homeless status; and
    • Guaranteeing that homeless employees will not be discriminated against because they lack a permanent mailing address or because their mailing address is that of a shelter or social service provider.
  • Illinois' Genetic Information Privacy Act (GIPA) prohibits discrimination against an employee because of genetic testing or genetic information.
  • Under Illinois' Equal Pay Act (EPA), employers may not discriminate between employees based on sex for the same or substantially similar work on jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions, except when the payment is made under a seniority system, a merit system or a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production or a differential based on a non-discriminatory factor.
  • Because the scope of the IHRA's disability and sexual harassment provisions are broader than those of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII (i.e., they extend to all employers, in contrast to the ADA's and Title VII's coverage of employers with 15 or more employees), smaller Illinois employers should be mindful that they may be subject to state law requirements to make reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and should ensure that they have a sexual harassment policy in place.
  • In addition to federal and state antidiscrimination laws, employers may be subject to local laws prohibiting discrimination. Some of these laws may include categories not protected under federal and state law and/or may extend to smaller employers than those covered under the federal and state laws. Employers should ensure that they are aware of and compliant with the local law in jurisdictions where they have operations and adjust EEO policies as appropriate.
  • A critical component of achieving and supporting diversity in the workplace is ensuring that antidiscrimination policies are communicated effectively and enforced uniformly.
  • Ensure that the EEO policy is reviewed and understood by all employees. For managers and supervisors, provide additional training on how to respond to complaints or incidents of discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

Additional Resources

EEO Handbook Statement [15-19 Employees]: Federal

EEO Handbook Statement [20+ Employees]: Federal

EEO Protected Classes by State and Municipality