Sexual harassment is completely unacceptable. It can cause stress, mental health issues, and even affect a victim’s safety. Victims of sexual harassment in Chicago should know their rights.
In this article, Justice Legal Counsel provides a step-by-step guide to filing a sexual harassment complaint in Chicago.
Step 1: Report the Harassment to Your Employer
The first step in the process of filing a sexual harassment complaint is to report the harassment to your employer. Your employer is required to take steps to prevent and stop harassment in the workplace, and reporting the harassment to them is the first step in this process. At this point it doesn’t matter whether the harasser is a coworker or your supervisor. The important thing is to report it.
You can report it in writing or verbally. But it is preferable to report it in writing. That way there is no doubt that you actually reported the sexual harassment to your employer.
If your employer is the harasser, you should report the harassment to a supervisor or human resources representative.
Step 2: File a Complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
If your employer does not take action to stop the harassment, you may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for investigating claims of sexual harassment in the workplace. You will need to complete a form online or by mail. You can also call the EEOC to speak with a representative and have them help you through the process.
Step 3: File a Complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR)
In addition to the EEOC, you may also file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The IDHR is the state agency responsible for investigating claims of discrimination and harassment in Illinois. Think of it like the state-version of the EEOC. Similar to the EEOC, you will need to complete a form online or by mail. The IDHR will then investigate your claim and make a determination as to whether sexual harassment occurred.
While the EEOC and IDHR are similar in a lot of ways, there are a couple key differences. The main difference is the laws that apply. Yes, there is a lot of overlap between them. For instance, both federal and state law prohibits employment discrimination based on race. But Illinois law typically goes farther in the protections it gives employees. Your lawyer will give you a good idea of which one works better for your case.
Both the EEOC and IDHR offices are located in downtown Chicago in the Loop area.
Step 4: Consider Filing a Lawsuit
If your complaint is not resolved through the EEOC or the IDHR, you may consider filing a lawsuit. A lawsuit is a legal action taken in a court of law. In Chicago your options are the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (federal court), or the Circuit Court of Cook County (state court). Both are located in downtown Chicago.
A lawsuit can help you get money damages. The purpose of money damages is to compensate you for the harm caused by the harasser. This covers things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, actual damages, and physical damages. A civil rights attorney would be the one to advise you on your potential money damages award.
While you are not required to have an attorney represent you in a lawsuit, you would be wise to obtain one. The rules of civil procedure are complicated. A lot of civil rights lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they don’t charge a fee unless you win your case. Plus, your employer will almost always have a lawyer representing them.
Step 5: The Trial Process
The vast majority of workplace sexual harassment cases settle before going to trial. But if your case goes to trial, the process can be lengthy and complex. The trial will involve witnesses, evidence, and legal arguments. Your lawyer will work with you to build a strong case and present your case in the best possible light.
You will almost certainly be required to testify. You can also demand that your harasser testify. This will be an opportunity for your lawyer to question the harasser about their actions. Think of the trial as the opportunity to be heard and where a final decision will be made.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim in Chicago
Q: What is sexual harassment?
A: Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. This can include comments, gestures, jokes, or physical contact of a sexual nature. Make no mistake – sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal.
Q: Can I file a sexual harassment claim if I was harassed by a coworker or customer in Chicago?
A: Yes, you can file a sexual harassment claim if you were harassed by a co-worker or customer in Chiacgo. You should report the harassment to your employer and file a complaint with the EEOC and the IDHR. Unlike sexual harassment caused by a supervisor, harassment by a coworker or customer is different. It is actually a requirement to report the harassment by a coworker or customer to your employer. They then have a chance to fix the situation (by investigating and finding a solution). If they fail to do that after you report it, then they can be liable for the harassment.
Q: How long do I have to file a sexual harassment complaint in Chicago?
A: You have 300 days from the date of the last instance of harassment to file a complaint with the EEOC. You have 180 days from the date of the last instance of harassment to file a complaint with the IDHR. If the harassment is ongoing, then the deadline calculation starts from the last instance of the harassment. But in the case of ongoing harassment, you can include all the instances of harassment in your complaint – not just the last act.
Contact the civil rights attorneys at Justice Legal Counsel to help you file a sexual harassment claim in Chicago. We’d be happy to give you a free legal evaluation and discuss your options.