Employers Can Be Liable For Sexual Harassment Committed by Non-Employees

Most people know that employees are protected against sexual harassment committed by co-workers or supervisors. But did you know that employees are also protected against sexual harassment committed by individuals outside of the company?

Sexual Harassment Law in Illinois

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of sex. An employer violates this provision the discrimination creates a hostile work environment. To establish a claim, the individual must show he or she was subject to unwelcome sexual conduct, advances, or requests because of his or her sex that was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile relationship. Thus, regardless of whether the conduct is from a co-worker or someone outside the company, such as a customer, the harassment must be severe and pervasive.

In addition, the individual must show there is a basis for employer liability. If the sexual harasser is a supervisor of the employee, employer liability in Illinois is automatic. However, if the sexual harasser is a co-worker or non-employee, you must show the company was reckless in permitting, or failing to prevent the sexual harassment. EEOC v. Costo, 903 F.3d 618 (7th Cir. 2018). The Employer must know about the harassment and then fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the harassment.

Hewitt v. BS Transportation of Illinois

For example, a plaintiff recently filed a federal lawsuit claiming the employer is liable for sexual harassment committed by a nonemployee. Hewitt v. BS Transportation of Illinois, 2:18-cv-712 (E.D. P.A. Jan. 11, 2019). The Company moved to dismiss the case because no one at the Company committed the sexual harassment. However, the Court denied the Company’s motion, finding it would be equally illegal for a non-employee to commit sexual harassment so long as the above elements are met.

If you are victim to sexual harassment, regardless of source, contact an employment attorney immediately.