No individual should have to endure sexual harassment at work (or anywhere else for that matter). Federal and Illinois law define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Both men and women can be subject to sexual harassment, and the perpetrator can be the same or different sex as the individual being harassed. To make a successful claim, the employee must show one of three elements:
- submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
- submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
- such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
See 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(a); 775 ILCS 5/2-101(E).
Employees can be subject to illegal sexual harassment by supervisors, coworkers, or other individuals, such as clients or customers. In the case of a supervisor, the employee simply needs to show the supervisor sexually harassed the employee according to the above-listed elements. If the individual committing the sexual harassment is anyone other than the supervisor, the employee must also show the employer knew or had reason to know of the sexual harassment.
Charge of Discrimination Procedure
When bringing a claim for sexual harassment in Illinois, the employee generally must first exhaust his or her administrative remedies. This will involve bringing a Charge of Discrimination with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). The Charge should detail how the company and individuals committed sexual harassment. The charge will then be assigned to an investigator with the EEOC or the IDHR. The investigator can subpoena documents, interview witnesses, and other acts to determine if the employee was sexually harassed. If the charge is not resolved through the administrative process, the agency will issue a right to sue letter, which allows the employee to file a complaint in federal or state court.
Sexual Harassment Damages
In general, and employee who has been sexually harassed will likely be entitled to lost pay and benefits, compensatory damages, possibly punitive damages depending on how repulsive the defendant’s conduct was, costs of bringing the lawsuit, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The exact damages will depend on the type of misconduct the employee was forced to endure, along with the harmful consequences the worker must deal with as a result of the sexual harassment.
Contact Osborne Employment Law Today
Illinois Labor and Employment Attorney
If you have been subject to sexual harassment, contact an attorney immediately. Keep in mind that many claims brought as sexual harassment under state and federal laws are subject to strict time limitations. For example, sexual harassment claims brought under the Illinois Human Rights Act must be brought in a charge of discrimination within 180 days. Do not wait, and contact an employment attorney as soon as you think you may be subject to illegal behavior.