Same sex harassment occurs far too often. Victims of same sex harassment might not file a complaint due to embarrassment, fear of retaliation, or simply not knowing that same sex harassment is illegal.
No one should have to endure harassment in the workplace, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Yet same sex harassment is a problem that regularly affects many workers in the United States.
Victims of same sex harassment at work need to understand their rights under federal and Illinois law. You have options for seeking justice.
What is Same Sex Harassment?
Same sex harassment is a form of sex discrimination that occurs when someone is subjected to unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, comments, or physical contact because of their gender or sexual orientation. This type of sexual harassment can take many different forms, including:
- Verbal harassment, such as inappropriate comments or sexual jokes. Usually you’d need to show a pattern of verbal harassment.
- Physical harassment, such as unwanted touching or assault. Just one instance of physical harassment might be enough to win your case.
- Visual harassment, such as leering or staring. These can be tough to prove, but circumstantial evidence will help.
- Psychological harassment, such as creating a hostile work environment. You’d usually need a couple instances to prove this, but it’s just as serious as the other forms of same sex harassment.
Examples of Same Sex Harassment
To help you understand same sex harassment, consider the following examples:
- A gay man is repeatedly subjected to homophobic slurs and jokes by his male coworkers
- A lesbian is subjected to unwanted sexual advances from her female supervisor
- A bisexual employee is subjected to physical harassment, such as unwanted touching, by a male coworker
- A man is subjected to hostile comments and gestures from a male coworker, making it difficult for him to perform his job duties
- A man is repeatedly heckled by his male coworkers for his lack of sexual activity
Your Rights Under Federal Law
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including same sex harassment.
Victims of same sex harassment can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the laws against same sex harassment. The EEOC will investigate your complaint and may file a lawsuit on your behalf if they find evidence of discrimination. You can also hire a civil rights attorney to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Your Rights Under Illinois Law
In addition to federal law, Illinois also has its own anti-discrimination laws that protect workers from harassment, including same-sex harassment.
The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) prohibits discrimination based on sex, which includes same sex harassment. Like Title VII, the IHRA gives you the right to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights if you have experienced same sex harassment. The department will investigate your complaint. If they find substantial evidence that same sex harassment occurred, they may file a lawsuit on your behalf. Like federal law, a private attorney can represent you against your employer for same sex harassment.
FAQs for Victims of Same Sex Harassment
Q: What should I do if I experience same sex harassment at work?
A: If you are a victim of same sex harassment at work, you should document the incidents, including the date, time, and details of the harassment. You should also tell your employer of the harassment and request that it stop. This notice should be in writing, but verbally telling them also works. If your employer is unresponsive or if the harassment continues, you may want to file a complaint with the EEOC or the Illinois Department of Human Rights. An attorney can help with this.
Q: Can I be fired for reporting same sex harassment at work?
A: No, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for reporting same sex harassment (even if you’re not the victim of the same sex harassment). If you are fired or otherwise punished for reporting harassment, you may have a separate claim for retaliation. Again, a civil rights lawyer can help you file a complaint for retaliation.
Q: Do I need a lawyer to file a complaint of same sex harassment?
A: No, you are not required to have a lawyer to file a complaint of same sex harassment. But having an experienced civil rights attorney on your side can help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. An attorney can help you navigate the complex legal system. Make sure to find out if your lawyer has experience in same sex harassment cases before hiring them.
The civil rights attorneys at Justice Legal Counsel would be happy to discuss your case of same sex harassment. Contact us today for a free legal evaluation.