To prove a case of sexual harassment discrimination under Illinois law, an individual must be able to show that they were subjected to unwanted or unwelcome sexual advances or conduct that was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment or to interfere with their work performance. This can include physical or verbal behavior, such as inappropriate touching or comments, sexual jokes or innuendos, and requests for sexual favors.
Elements of Sexual Harassment in Illinois
The conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. This means that the behavior must be severe enough to alter the terms and conditions of the victim’s employment or create an intimidating or offensive work environment. A single incident may be sufficient if it is particularly egregious, but more typically, a pattern of behavior is required.
Let’s break this down. If a co-worker makes a sexist remark on just one occasion, that might not be considered to be a pattern of behavior. But if they’re making sexist comments at least once a week for a few months, it is more likely that a pattern of harassment is found. In terms of severity, an inappropriate touching is almost always more severe than a verbal comment. Even a single, isolated inappropriate touch can be the basis for sexual harassment.
Evidence that shows sexual harassment
The victim must also show that they experienced the harassment because of their sex or gender. In other words, the harassment must be based on the victim’s status as a man or woman, rather than any other factor (although if it was due to race, religion, or other protected status, that may be a different type of discrimination).
Victims can prove this by showing that the discriminatory actions only happen to them, and not other types of employees. For examples, if sex jokes are only made towards a female employee, but not towards male employees, that can be evidence of sexual harassment based on gender.
If an individual can demonstrate these elements, they may have a case for sexual harassment under Illinois law. We’d be happy to listen to your story and give you our opinion on whether you have a case for sexual harassment under Illinois law.