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Sexual Harassment

Chicago Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Representing victims of harassment and abuse throughout Illinois

Workspaces are supposed to be safe. When employees harass one another, they can create a hostile work environment, and the employers can be held liable for these conditions. As an employee, you are protected by state and federal laws which prohibit harassment. If your rights are violated, Gainsberg Law is here to help. We will fight to uphold your rights, and to make sure that your workspace is safe. Contact us to schedule a consultation with a Chicago sexual harassment lawyer today.

What is harassment?

Harassment is unwanted, offensive behavior. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits harassment based on protected status in the workplace. It is a form of discrimination.

Sexual harassment is harassment based specifically on a person’s sex, gender, or gender identity. Per the Illinois Human Rights Act:

"Sexual harassment" means any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Who can be a victim of sexual harassment?

Any employee can be a victim of sexual harassment. People of all genders can be sexually harassed.

Who can be a perpetrator of sexual harassment?

Any employee, including supervisors, executives, and coworkers. Sexual harassment can also be perpetrated by outside vendors, contractors, site visitors, or other individuals.

What are examples of sexual harassment in Illinois workplaces?

The first example most folks think of when they hear “sexual harassment” is usually the male supervisor making sexually explicit comments about the female employee. Sometimes, harassment is this explicit; other times, it can masquerade as something else. This is why some many victims hear things like “Can’t you take a joke?” and “Don’t be so sensitive” when they express discomfort.

Aside from direct sexual advances, sexual harassment can include:

  • Sharing sexually explicit photos, videos, “jokes,” or other material through email, texting, or software programs
  • Telling sexually explicit jokes or stories
  • Using sexually explicit language to describe other people, or when speaking to the employee
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Using inappropriate gestures
  • Making “catcalls,” wolf whistles,” and other sounds designed to target a person’s sex, gender, gender identity, or appearance
  • Asking inappropriate questions about a person’s sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual activities
  • Ogling or leering
  • Insulting, mocking, or putting down people based on their sex, gender, gender identity, or appearance

Is it harassment or not?

Not all bad behavior will rise to the level of sexual harassment. A coworker who sends an inappropriate joke via email may have exercised bad judgment, but he or she is not guilty of sexual harassment because of an isolated event. If this type of behavior is pervasive, however, you could potentially have a claim.

There is also a difference between sexual harassment and sexual abuse. The supervisor who comments on your outfit every day, or insists on touching your waist every time he or she walks by may be guilty of sexual harassment; the employee who physically assaults you commits an act of sexual abuse, and may be subject to criminal penalties as well as a civil lawsuit.

How does the Illinois Human Rights Act categorize sexual harassment?

While there are many examples of sexual harassment, the state of Illinois generally categorizes them in one of two ways: a hostile or offensive working environment, or acts of quid pro quo.

  • Hostile or offensive working environments are those where harassment interferes with employees’ abilities to do their jobs. You do not need to be the target of the harassment to be affected by a hostile or offensive working environment.
  • Quid pro quo harassment usually involves sexual favors in exchange for a benefit (like being promoted) or to avoid a consequence (like being demoted or fired). One does not actually need to be hired. Promoted, fired, or demoted to claim quid pro quo harassment; all that is needed is for the offer to be made.

I’ve been a victim of sexual harassment; what do I do?

The first thing you should do is write down everything that happened. Next, contact your Human Resources department and inform them of the problem. If your company does not have an H.R. department, contact your employer or supervisor. Doing this will allow you to build a record of the harassment, as well as the steps you took to have the issue corrected.

Once you contacted your H.R. department or supervisor, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment (EEOC) Opportunity Commission or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). Generally, you have 180 days to file a claim with the IDHR and up to 300 days to file with the EEOC, but the timelines may be shorter, so it is best to file your complaint as quickly as possible.

The EEOC has 10 days to contact your employer and request a response to your complaint. Depending on how the employer responds, the EEOC may decide to investigate your complaint. This can take up to 6 months.

If the EEOC or IDHR decides not to pursue charges, you can file a lawsuit against your employer. You only have 90 days from receipt of the EEOC or IDHR’s decision to file that lawsuit. Further, you can only file a federal lawsuit if the EEOC chooses not to pursue your claim.

Should I hire a Chicago sexual harassment attorney?

If you decide to pursue a lawsuit against your harasser and/or your company, hiring an employment attorney is a smart move. As clear as the laws are, there are plenty of “loopholes” that the defendant’s legal team can exploit to fight your claim.

At Gainsberg Law, we put our skills, resources, and experience to work for you, building a case based on:

  • Written reports submitted to HR
  • Email, text, and video documentation of the harassment
  • Sworn statements offered by colleagues or others who witnessed the harassment
  • Documentation of any off-hours harassment via social media
  • Complex analysis of the company’s policies
  • In-depth understanding of the state and federal laws and regulations governing acceptable workplace behavior

A successful claim may entitle you to damages, such as attorneys’ fees, associated medical costs, and lost wages. It can also accomplish much more, by forcing a company to reevaluate its employees’ behavior and its role in creating a hostile work environment. We are ready and able to help you fight back, and to take back control of your future.

Were you sexually harassed at your Chicago workplace? Call us today for help

Sexual harassment is illegal in Illinois. If you have been a victim of harassment, you have options. Gainsberg Law wants to help. Please call 312-600-9585 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation with a compassionate Chicago employment lawyer today.