Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that is unfortunately still prevalent in Illinois. Under Illinois law, it is a legal violation for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or any other protected class. Sexual harassment includes unwanted advances or comments of a sexual nature, as well as engaging in physical or verbal behavior that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment.
Types of Sexual Harassment
Generally, Illinois recognizes two types of sexual harassment discrimination: quid pro quo and hostile workplace. Quid pro quo involves sexual harassment that involves a promise to do something in exchange for a sexual favor. This could include a promise of a promotion, better work schedule, or more career opportunities. It can also include threats of negative behavior, such as exchanging sexual favors or else the victim will be demoted or given fewer hours to work.
Hostile workplace means that the sexual harassment creates a workplace that the employee feels very uncomfortable in, or even feels unsafe. Even if the harasser does not intend to create a hostile workplace, they may still be liable if the effect of the harassment creates a hostile workplace.
A good example of that is sexual jokes. The harasser may think they are just poking fun and want everyone to laugh, but that might have the effect of making co-workers uncomfortable to the point that it creates a hostile workplace.
Victims of sexual harassment and discrimination may feel embarrassed, humiliated, or fearful about speaking out against their abuser. However, ignoring the issues may only make things worse. Also, the law tends to effectively penalize those who fail to report the harassment because the employer may argue that “if the harassment was that bad, then why didn’t the employee report it earlier?”
This argument fails to acknowledge that there are many reasons why employees don’t approach their employers with claims of harassment. This could include embarrassment, lack of trust in the employer, or just wanting to be a “team player” and not complain.
You have the right to work in a safe and respectful environment, free from discrimination and harassment. If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, please send us a message and we’ll get back to you with your options.