Illinois law prohibits any form of unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace. There are two main types of sexual harassment claims under Illinois law: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment is when a person in a position of authority (like a supervisor or manager) tries to exchange employment benefits for sexual acts of favors. These employment benefits can include a promotion, better work hours, or higher pay.
Hostile work environment harassment occurs when the conduct is so severe that it creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. An example of a hostile work environment can be your boss constantly commenting on your appearance in a sexual way. Usually you need a pattern of acts like this to show a hostile work environment. But if a single act is severe enough (such as an inappropriate touching) then that can be enough to show a hostile work environment.
Illinois courts regularly deal with cases of workplace sexual harassment, including Sabo v. City of Joliet Police Department, and Jardien v. United Airlines, Inc.
In the Sabo case, 901 N.E.2d 706 (Ill. App. Ct. 2009), the victim, a female police officer, brought a claim against the City of Joliet Police Department for quid pro quo sexual harassment as well as hostile work environment. She claimed that she was subjected to sexual advances and requests for sexual favors from a supervisor, and that led to the creation of a hostile work environment. The court found in her favor and she was awarded $300,000 in damages for emotional distress and lost wages.
In Jardien v. United Airlines, Inc., 974 N.E.2d 49 (Ill. App. Ct. 2012), the victim, a female flight attendant, sued United Airlines for quid pro quo harassment and a hostile work environment. She claimed that she was subjected to sexual advances and requests for sexual favors from a co-worker, which led to a hostile work environment. The court awarded her $2 million in damages for the harassment she experienced.
Damages awarded in sexual harassment cases can vary based on the specific circumstances of each case. Employees may be entitled to money damages for the emotional harm they suffered, as well as lost wages, medical expenses, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
In both of the cases mentioned above, the victims bravely took the first step in holding their employers accountable: they contacted a civil rights lawyer. If you think you have a sexual harassment claim please contact a JLC civil rights attorney for a free legal evaluation.