In the United States, every employee has the right to work in an environment without being treated unfairly or harassed on the basis of sex. Local, state, and federal laws strictly prohibit sexual harassment at work and place demands on employers to ensure that no employee is harassed on the basis of sex. Sadly, not all employers effectively implement or enforce policies to combat this unlawful and damaging behavior.
Our Illinois sexual harassment lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC know that sexual harassment exists in the workplace. When you are the victim of sexual harassment or your employer fails to prevent the situation or refuses to rectify it, we can help. We have a track record of success with sexual harassment cases, including a landmark $95 million jury verdict for a woman who experienced sexual harassment on the job. We will help you navigate the complex legal process while you focus on recovering from the damaging effects of sexual harassment.
Call us today at 618-277-3644 for a free, confidential consultation.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can take many forms, of which both men and women may be the victims. It often includes unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other types of actions and comments with sexual and offensive implications. It is important to keep in mind that sexual harassment is not limited to comments of a sexual nature. Comments which are derogatory about the sex of the person also qualify as sexual harassment.
Equally important is the consideration that all insulting or offensive comments are not considered sexual harassment. Courts throughout the U.S. have routinely held that teasing, minor offhand comments, many types of jokes, and isolated incidents which are not serious, or do not involve body contact, are not considered sexual harassment. The law also does not provide for relief merely because the listener is more sensitive to the comments than another.
Sexual harassment is illegal, however, when it crosses the line and involves sexually harassing comments or derogatory statements, offensive bodily contact, or comments which are made with such frequency that it results in a hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment is also illegal when it forms the basis for an adverse employment outcome, which occurs when the victim is censured, reprimanded, demoted, suspended, or fired.
Who May be Responsible for Sexual Harassment
State and federal laws place responsibility on your employer to prevent sexual harassment. If they do not have policies in place that adequately prevent damaging situations, they may be liable for the injuries and distress that you experience as a result. Similarly, your employer is responsible for rectifying occurrences of sexual harassment once they are informed of it. If they do not take action, they can be liable for past and future injuries. Any person that employees come into contact with during the course of their employment may be a harasser, including supervisors, coworkers, subordinates, and even customers of a business. It is important to keep in mind that in Illinois, if the harasser is a supervisor or in management, your employer can be held strictly liable for that person’s conduct.
Laws Prohibiting Sexual Harassment
Several local, state, and federal laws protect your right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. Some relevant laws include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on sex and other personal characteristics. It is also illegal to retaliate against someone because they complain about such discrimination. Sexual harassment is considered discrimination on the basis of sex.
- Illinois Human Rights Act – This law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace for most employers in the State of Illinois.
- Illinois Constitution – The Constitution of the State of Illinois guarantees all employees a right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, in the hiring and promotion practices of any employer.
- Local Ordinances – Several Illinois municipalities have adopted local ordinances protecting the civil rights of employees, including their rights to work in a sexual harassment free environment.
- Tort Claims – You may also have a personal injury claim under traditional tort laws, such as assault and battery.
What To Do If You’ve Experienced Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, the law places several obligations on you in order to proceed with legal relief. The first thing any victim of sexual harassment should do is utilize all resources offered by the employer to report such behavior. If your employer has a sexual harassment hotline, call and speak with someone about the problem. You should also inform your supervisor. If the supervisor is the one responsible for the harassment, you should inform another person in management. Even if the harasser is the owner of the company, you must still follow all procedures outlined per your employer’s policies for reporting sexual harassment.
The second step you must take is to file a claim or charge of sexual harassment with the local division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). The EEOC and IDHR have attorneys and investigators trained to assist you in filing your claim or charge, and will investigate your claims to determine whether you have viable claims for proceeding with a lawsuit. The time limits for filing a claim or charge with the EEOC or IDHR are very strict, and in most cases your claim or charge must be filed with the EEOC or IDHR within 180 days of the sexual harassment occurring. If you fail to timely file your claim or charge with the appropriate administrative agency, you will be forever barred from asserting a claim.
The final step is to file a lawsuit, if appropriate, at the conclusion of the investigation by the EEOC or IDHR. Once the investigation is completed by the administrative agency, it will issue a letter commonly referred to as a “Right to Sue Letter.” You will receive this letter regardless of the agency’s determination of whether there is substantial evidence of sexual harassment having occurred. You will then have 90 days from the receipt of this latter to file suit against your employer for any violations of Title VII or the Illinois Human Rights Act. This is why it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
We have assisted numerous clients in filing claims with the EEOC and IDHR, and in filing a lawsuit at the conclusion of the investigation by the EEOC or IDHR. It should be noted that most of the tools at the disposal of the EEOC and IDHR are there to ensure that the company changes its policies and practices to ensure that the hostile work environment is removed. If you desire compensation for the wrongs committed by your employer, an attorney with experience in these types of cases is necessary.
Illinois Employment Lawyers Provide Aggressive Representation in Sexual Harassment Claims
We understand that being the victim of sexual harassment, whether it be offensive comments, loss of a position, denial of a promotion, or sexual assault or battery, can have devastating financial, familial, social, and emotional results. Victims of sexual harassment can spend years in counseling, and deal with a variety of mental issues which preclude them from again being gainfully employed. This results not only in further stress to the victim but to the victim’s family. It can also result in lost income if the victim is fired, demoted, suspended, or otherwise has an adverse employment action taken against them.
At The Cates Law Firm, LLC, we strive to ensure that every victim of sexual harassment receives compensation for their losses associated with the wrongdoings of another person. An Illinois employment lawyer at The Cates Law Firm will be familiar with the interaction of local, state, and federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. We will assess your claim and help you determine the best course of action for recovering compensation.
If you or a friend or loved one has been sexually harassed at work, we are here to speak with you. Please give us a call today at 618-277-3644 for your no cost, no obligation consultation, or contact us online, and let us know how we can help you.