Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment is any form of workplace hostility that is sexual in nature. Most workers recognize conventional forms of this type of harassment such as requests for sexual favors, physical or verbal assaults of sexual nature, and unwelcome sexual advances. 

However, it is not limited to sexual demands and assaults. It also includes behaviors, remarks, and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender and sexuality or make them feel uncomfortable in the workplace. Such behaviors can involve making offensive remarks about a person’s sexuality, appearance, dressing style, or negative comments about one group in general. 

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Not all errant behavior can be regarded as sexual harassment under the law. However, any sexualized conduct that is unwelcome and offensive, frequent, and severely affects the victim economically or creates a hostile work environment can be termed as sexual harassment. Employers can also be cited  if they make adverse employment decisions based on perverted sexual interests. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission describes various ways in which this harassment can occur:

  •   The victim and the harasser can be a man or a woman
  •   The victim can be of the same gender or sexual identity as the offender
  •   The harasser can be a senior figure, a co-worker, an agent of the employer, a customer, or a third party such as a vendor.
  •   The victims include all those people who are affected by the offensive conduct, not just direct targets.
  •   Any behavior of a sexual nature that is unwelcome can be regarded as sexual harassment
  •   Sexual harassment can occur without loss of employment or other economic injuries

The Law On Sexual Harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes sexual harassment as discrimination based on gender or sexual identity. The act allows victims of this discrimination to sue their employers if the employer has 15 or more employees. Workers in any organization, including private companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, can seek damages for sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Senate recently reviewed the Illinois Human Rights Act to introduce more stringent rules on sexual harassment. As of Jan 2020, victims can sue their employers even if the offense does not occur in the workplace. It also allows non-employees such as the staff of HR consultancies and other agencies contracted by an organization to sue for sexual harassment.  

Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment occurs when the offensive sexual behavior is part of explicit or implicit terms or conditions of employment. It can also be cited when sexually discriminatory conduct is used to make employment decisions. For example, an employee can sue the employer if a boss offers a promotion to subordinates who agree to a date. Workers can also sue for sexual discrimination if they are fired for rejecting sexual advances from a senior. 

Hostile Work Environment

Sexual conduct is said to create a hostile work environment if it interferes with the victim’s performance or creates a hostile work environment. The behavior does not have to be intentional as long as it is offensive, intimidating, humiliating, or causing discomfort to some workers. 

Employer’s Responsibility 

Illinois employers are expected to create a safe working environment for all workers, irrespective of gender and sexual orientation. Employers are also required to provide training to all staff and contracted workers. 

Illinois law holds employers liable for sexual harassment irrespective of whether the victim suffered from adverse employment action. The employer is culpable even if the victim does not work under the harassing supervisor. 

Larry Disparti and the attorneys at the Disparti Law Group have quickly become Chicago’s leader in Employment Law. If you feel you’re a victim of , you can take legal action against your employer. We’re here to listen to you and advise you on what recourse you can take. Ready to talk? Contact the Disparti Law Group today at 312-600-6000.   

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