SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
547 N.E.2d 437, 132 Ill. 2d 304, 138 Ill. Dec. 270 1989.IL.1822
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on petition for review of an order of the Human Rights Commission.
JUSTICE STAMOS delivered the opinion of the court.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE STAMOS
On December 30, 1982, defendant Corroon and Black of Illinois terminated the employment of plaintiff Raul Castaneda. On February 14, 1983, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (hereinafter the Department). The Department then filed a formal complaint against defendant, alleging violations of plaintiff's civil rights. After a full hearing, an administrative law Judge found no discrimination and recommended that the complaint be dismissed. A three-member panel of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (hereinafter the Commission) adopted the Judge's recommendations and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff then sought review of the Commission's order in the appellate court. (175 Ill. App. 3d 1085, 1085-86.) The appellate court, sua sponte, dismissed the appeal because plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by not requesting a rehearing by the entire Commission. (175 Ill. App. 3d at 1086, 1088.) We granted plaintiff's and the Commission's petitions for leave to appeal (107 Ill. 2d R. 315).
The sole issue before this court is whether petitioners seeking judicial review of decisions by three-member panels of the Human Rights Commission must seek an en bloc rehearing before the Commission in order to exhaust their administrative remedies and to render such decisions final and reviewable. We conclude that they ordinarily must do so. Therefore, we affirm.
Parties aggrieved by the action of an administrative agency, such as the Human Rights Commission, ordinarily cannot seek review in the courts without first pursuing all administrative remedies available to them. (Phillips v. Graham (1981), 86 Ill. 2d 274, 289; Walker v. State Board of Elections (1976), 65 Ill. 2d 543, 551-52; Illinois Bell Telephone Co. v. Allphin (1975), 60 Ill. 2d 350, 358.) Requiring the exhaustion of remedies allows the administrative agency to fully develop and consider the facts of the cause before it; it allows the agency to utilize its expertise; and it allows the aggrieved party to ultimately succeed before the agency, making judicial review unnecessary. (Allphin, 60 Ill. 2d at 358; 4 K. Davis, Administrative Law Treatise 415 (2d ed. 1983).) The doctrine also helps protect agency processes from impairment by avoidable interruptions, allows the agency to correct its own errors, and conserves valuable judicial time by avoiding piecemeal appeals. 4 K. Davis, Administrative Law Treatise 415 (2d ed. 1983).
While this court generally requires strict compliance with this doctrine, we recognize several exceptions. An aggrieved party may seek judicial review of an administrative decision without complying with the exhaustion of remedies doctrine where a statute, ordinance or rule is attacked as unconstitutional on its face (County of Kane v. Carlson (1986), 116 Ill. 2d 186, 199; City of Chicago v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n (1980), 79 Ill. 2d 213, 217; Allphin, 60 Ill. 2d at 358), where multiple administrative remedies exist and at least one is exhausted (Allphin, 60 Ill. 2d at 358; One Way Liquors, Inc. v. Byrne (1982), 105 Ill. App. 3d 856, 861), where the agency cannot provide an adequate remedy or where it is patently futile to seek relief before the agency (Graham v. Illinois Racing Board (1979), 76 Ill. 2d 566, 573; Sanders v. City of Springfield (1985), 130 Ill. App. 3d 490, 493), where no issues of fact are presented or agency expertise is not involved (Allphin, 60 Ill. 2d at 358; McKenna v. Board of Trustees (1980), 90 Ill. App. 3d 992, 998-99), where irreparable harm will result from further pursuit of administrative remedies (Allphin, 60 Ill. 2d 350; Byrne, 105 Ill. App. 3d at 861), or where the agency's jurisdiction is attacked because it is not authorized by statute (Byrne, 105 Ill. App. 3d at 861).
The appellate court never reached the merits of plaintiff's appeal. (175 Ill. App. 3d at 1086.) Therefore, we need only address the procedural aspects of the case at bar.
The procedure for redressing acts of employment discrimination by employers (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, par. 2-102) is contained in articles 7 and 8 of the Illinois Human Rights Act (hereinafter the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, pars. 7-101 through 8-113). Section 7-102of the Act explains how aggrieved employees can file charges against their employers with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The Department will then investigate the charge. If there is not substantial evidence of a civil rights violation, the Department will dismiss the charge, subject to review by the Commission. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, par. 7-102(2)(a).) If there is substantial evidence of a violation, the Department will attempt conciliation or settlement. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, pars. 7-102(2)(b), 7-102, 7-103.) Should these attempts fail, the Department will file a formal complaint against the employer with the Commission. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, par. 7-102.
After the complaint is filed, a hearing is set before a hearing officer of the Commission. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, pars. 8-106, 8-106.) After the hearing, the officer will issue a written decision as outlined by the Commission's rules. (56 Ill. Adm. Code § 5300.760 (1985).) This decision is not final, however, but is merely a recommendation to the Commission. 56 Ill. Adm. Code § 5300.810 (1985); see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, par. 8-106.
The Commission's rules allow parties to object to the decision and recommendation of the hearing officer, and to argue such matters before the Commission. (56 Ill. Adm. Code §§ 5300.820 through 5300.860 (1985); see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, pars. 8-107through .) Such hearings are conducted before a three-member panel of the Commission. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 68, pars. 8-102, 8-107.) After the hearing, the panel will issue an order and decision. 56 Ill. Adm. Code §§ 5300.1010 through 5300.1040 (1985).
Plaintiff, in attempting to appeal the dismissal of his employment discrimination claim against defendant, successfully complied with all of the aforementioned procedures. It is at this point in the Act's procedural rules, however, that the controversy in the case at bar arises. Section 8--107states:
"Rehearing. (1) Within 30 days after service of the Commission's order, a party may file an application for rehearing before the full Commission. . . .
(2) Applications for rehearing shall be viewed with disfavor, and may be granted, by vote of 6 Commission members, only upon a clear demonstration that a matter raises legal issues of significant impact or that three-member panel decisions are in conflict." (Ill. Rev. Stat. ...