Author: David Wolowitz & Michael O'Connor, Prairie State Legal Services
Last updated: June 2003
What Is It? Article 4 of the Illinois Human Rights Act is a state law prohibiting financial institutions from engaging in discrimination on the basis of disability.
What Is Its Purpose? To provide people with disabilities with equal access to loans and other financial services.
Who Can Be Helped By This Law? Persons with a disability who seek equal access to loans and other financial services provided by financial institutions operating in Illinois.
Article 4 of the Illinois Human Rights Act (HRA) prohibits "financial institutions" from discriminating against people with disabilities in making loans or in offering other financial services.
Note: The HRA also prohibits financial institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, and military status.
The term "financial institutions" is defined by the HRA to include any:
The HRA protects you against financial discrimination if you have a "handicap." This means that all of the following must be true:
•You have any physical or mental condition or a history of such a condition, or you are perceived by the financial institution as having such a condition; and
•The condition results from disease, injury, a congenital condition, or a functional disorder, and
•The condition is unrelated to your ability to repay the indebtedness in question.
Having a "History" of a Physical or Mental Condition
The HRA considers you to have a "history" of a mental or physical condition if you are now restored or recovered from an impairment or if your symptoms are in remission.
Examples: The HRA protects people who have recovered from heart attacks, cancer, or mental illness from being discriminated against on the basis of their medical history.
Being "Perceived" as Having a Physical or Mental Condition
Under the HRA, you can be protected against discrimination even if you do not actually have a physical or mental impairment. This can happen if the financial institution believes that you do have an impairment and tries to discriminate against you on this basis.
Example: The HRA protects you if you have controlled high blood pressure, but the financial institution discriminates against you because of a concern that the condition could cause you to become "disabled" in the future.
The Types of Financial Transactions Covered by the Act
The HRA covers all of the services offered by a financial institution in the normal course of business. This includes such activities as:
The HRA covers these kinds of transactions, regardless of whether the transaction is for personal, commercial or industrial purposes.
The Prohibition Against Discrimination: In General
Article 4 of the HRA prohibits any financial institution from taking any of the following actions based on disability:
When making a loan, a financial institution is prohibited from doing any of the following on the basis of disability:
(1) A bank violates the HRA if it counts your job income but will not consider your Social Security benefits in deciding whether to give you a loan.
(2) A bank violates the HRA if it requires you to repay a car loan within 3 years but allows non-disabled persons 5 years to repay car loans.
In general, when you apply for a loan or credit, a financial institution cannot ask whether you have a disability or whether you have a physical or mental impairment.
On the other hand, if your loan application shows that you receive income on the basis of disability, then the institution may ask you about the nature and duration of your condition. This is so the financial institution can determine how reliable that income is and how likely it is that it will continue to be available.
A financial institution also may ask about your physical condition when you apply for credit insurance. This is to determine whether you are eligible and the conditions on which such insurance may be available to you.
A financial institution is allowed to apply sound underwriting practices when deciding whether to make a loan or extend credit. There is nothing in the HRA which prevents a bank from considering factors such as your ability to repay the loan, your credit history, and the value of the property you are willing to give as security for a loan.
Example: A person with AIDS applies for a $10,000 personal loan. The person has no savings and his only income is Social Security of $550 per month. The bank cannot lawfully refuse to give a loan solely because the person has AIDS or receives Social Security. However, the bank may refuse to give the loan if the person's income is too low to afford the payments.
The HRA also allows banks to use credit systems in deciding whether to grant a loan or extend credit. A credit system is a scoring system which evaluates your creditworthiness by assigning points based on your history and other aspects of the transaction.
Example: Under such a system you may get more points, and thus be considered more likely to repay the loan, based on how long you have been at your current job, whether you rent or own your home, the source of your income, and the number of people in your family.
The use of a credit system is permissible only if the system does not take disability into consideration.
Your rights under the HRA may have been violated if you have a "handicap" as defined by the HRA, and the financial institution takes one of the following actions due to your condition:
Your Appeal Rights
If a financial institution has violated your rights under the HRA, you must be careful to take the proper steps in order to preserve and enforce those rights. Those steps are explained in the section of this guidebook titled "How to Protect and Enforce Your Rights Under the Illinois Human Rights Act" in Chapter 1, General Considerations. Enforcement is the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
Your Legal Remedies for a Violation of the HRAyo
If the Human Rights Commission makes a finding that the financial institution has violated the HRA, they may grant the following types of relief:
The law authorizes the Commission to award you any other remedy or relief that is required to correct the results of the financial institution's discrimination.
To Contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR)
You can reach the IDHR at the following:
Department of Human Rights
James R. Thompson Center
100 West Randolph Street, Suite 10-100
Chicago, Illinois 60601
(312) 263-1579 (TDD)
222 South College, Floor 1
Springfield, Illinois 62704
(217) 785-5125 (TDD)
Marion State Regional Office Building
2309 W. Main Street, Suite 112
Marion, IL 62959
The IDHR Web Site is at http://www.state.il.us/dhr/.
The rules of the IDHR which interpret the Illinois Human Rights Act as it applies to financial institution discrimination on the basis of disability are at 38 Ill.Admin.Code Part 800.
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