Sex Discrimination In Employment Damages Under Article 1 Section 17 of the Illinois Constitution
Can an Employee Bring an Action for Damages Directly Under Article 1 Section 17 of the Illinois Constitution Based Upon Sex Discrimination in Employment ?
In Baker v. Miller, 159 Ill. 2d 249, 264, 201 Ill. Dec. 119, 636 N.E.2d 551 (1994), the plaintiff attempted to bring an action for damages directly under article I, section 17, of the Illinois Constitution based upon sex discrimination in employment.
The circuit court dismissed plaintiff's claim, and the appellate court affirmed, finding that an action for damages could not be brought directly under article I, section 17. Baker, 159 Ill. 2d at 253.
On appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the plaintiff argued that she should be permitted to bring an action for damages directly under article I, section 17, because the Illinois Human Rights Act did not provide her with a means of private recovery against her employer. Baker, 159 Ill. 2d at 256.
The court agreed with the defendant that although an action for damages for sex discrimination could generally be brought against an employer under the Illinois Human Rights Act, the defendant was exempted from liability under the Act because employing less than fifteen people. Baker, 159 Ill. 2d at 256.
Looking to the text of Article I, section 17, the Illinois Supreme Court found the self-executing language of the provision demonstrative of an intent to provide a private right of action in the event the legislature failed to enact laws creating private remedies for discrimination. Baker, 159 Ill. 2d at 264.
However, the court concluded that because the legislature enacted a comprehensive remedial scheme for enforcing civil rights under the Illinois Constitution, the Illinois Human Rights Act, plaintiff was foreclosed from bringing a damages action directly under article I, section 17, even if a private remedy was not available to the plaintiff under the Human Rights Act. Baker, 159 Ill. 2d at 265-66.