Civil rights are that class rights that protect people from unwarranted infringement by the government and private organizations. Such rights ensure that individuals will be free from discrimination and will have equal access to the enjoyment of those liberties granted in the U.S. Constitution, state constitutions, and various laws. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; freedom from discrimination in employment, housing, and credit transactions; and the right to equality in public places. This complex yet essential set of rights is enforced by both government agencies with law enforcement powers and by private actions in court.

Betty Tsamis of the Tsamis Law Firm has worked closely with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans (LGBT) communities and other minority communities for a number of years to represent its members’ legal interests in a variety of areas including but not limited to: employment, public accommodations housing, business, debt, trusts and estate planning, criminal, and health care. We believe our knowledge and experience in this area distinguishes us from most other law firms.

Ms. Tsamis has a long record of commitment to civil rights from serving with various civil rights organizations and serving as a commissioner on the Commission for Human Relations, City of Longmont (Colorado). Ms. Tsamis also served with the State of Colorado where she taught Fourth Amendment law and anti-biased policing practices to police officers throughout Colorado. Racial Profiling and Biased Policing were topics she lectured and published on.

Civil Rights Laws

Federal Laws
Various pieces of federal law prohibit segregation and discrimination in schools, public places, and employment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, disability and religion. Specific civil rights laws pertaining to the terms and conditions of employment protect against discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age (over 40), and pregnancy. Many of these laws are enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice. Our firm routinely represents victims of discrimination in these types of matters. More information can be found at The United States Department Of Justice.

Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA)
Generally: The IHRA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender-identity, race, color, religion, sex, arrest record, national origin, ancestry, age, order of protection status, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, or unfavorable discharge from military service.

The IHRA covers the above listed protected classes in the following five areas: employment, real estate transactions, financial credit, public accommodations and sexual harassment in higher education.

Employment: The law protects persons from discrimination in all terms and conditions of employment, including hiring, selection, promotion, transfer, pay, tenure, discharge, and discipline.

Public Accommodations: It is unlawful to discriminate in the full and equal enjoyment of facilities and services by any place of public accommodation, such as a business, recreation, lodging, entertainment, or transportation facility that is open to the public.

Financial Credit: All financial institutions doing business in Illinois are prohibited from discriminating in the granting of mortgages, commercial or personal loans, and credit cards.

Sexual Harassment in Higher Education: The law prohibits unwelcome advances of a sexual nature or requests for sexual favors of students by an executive, faculty member, administrative staff member, or teaching assistant in an institution of higher education when such behavior interferes with the student’s performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.

Real Estate Transactions (Housing): It is unlawful to discriminate in the sale or rental of residential or commercial property. A few examples of such discrimination are:

Altering the terms, conditions or privileges of the transaction.
Refusing to receive or transmit a bona fide offer.
Refusing to negotiate.
Misrepresenting that property is not available for rental or sale.

Retaliation: The IHRA prohibits retaliation against those who oppose unlawful discrimination under the Act or who assert their rights under the Act. IHRA also provides that it is a civil rights violation to aid, abet, compel or coerce a person to commit any violation of the Act.

Filing a Complaint: An aggrieved party must file a Charge of Discrimination no later than within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.


Our experienced attorneys can help you with this often confusing process.

Cook County Human Rights Ordinance
The Ordinance prohibits these forms of discrimination when they are based upon a person’s race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, military discharge status, source of income, housing status, or gender identity.

An aggrieved party must filed a Charge of Discrimination no later than within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the  Cook County Commission on Human Rights.

Chicago Human Relations Ordinance
The City of Chicago Human Relations Ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, credit transactions, bonding, and public accommodations because of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, sex, color, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, marital status, parental status, military discharge status, and source of income.

An aggrieved party must filed a Charge of Discrimination no later than within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations.

All of the laws above provide relief for those that have been victims of unlawful discrimination. Relief can include compensating you for lost income, emotional distress, award of reasonable attorney fees, and in some cases, punitive damages. The agencies above can also order the offender to eliminate discrimination and provide equitable relief such as returning you to your job, providing you with access to a public accommodation, and eliminating sexual harassment from the workplace or educational environment.

Contact us anytime for a free and confidential case evaluation.