Top 5 Employer Defenses to Sexual Harassment Claims

Employers may argue several different defenses in response to a sexual harassment discrimination claim under Illinois law. Let’s take a look at the top 5 common defenses employers use to defend against sexual harassment claims:

  1. Lack of knowledge: Employers can say that they were not aware of the harassment and therefore cannot be held liable. To successfully use this defense, the employer has to show that they had policies and procedures for reporting sexual harassment, and that the victim didn’t follow these procedures. That’s why it’s important for victims to report sexual harassment as soon as possible (or have your attorney do so on your behalf).
  2. Reasonable care: An employer might argue that they took reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior, and that the victim didn’t take advantage of any of the opportunities provided. As a victim, make sure to take advantage of these opportunities, such as notifying human resources of the harassment.
  3. No severe or pervasive conduct: To succeed in a sexual harassment claim, the victim must show that the harassment was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. An employer may argue that the harassment did not rise to this level. In other words, employers often try to minimize the harm done. To combat this, keep a log of each and every time you were harassed. Stand alone, each instance of harassment may not seem like a big deal. But lumping them all together paints a better picture of pervasive, continuing harassment.
  4. Consensual relationship: If the victim and the alleged harasser were in a consensual romantic or sexual relationship, the employer may argue that the conduct was not unwelcome and therefore did not constitute harassment. This might be one of their best defenses and the employer will likely interview other co-workers to understand the nature of your relationship with the alleged harasser.
  5. No causal connection: The employer may try to show that any adverse employment actions against the victim was not due to sexual harassment, but rather due to your poor performance or something else. Don’t give the employer an excuse to cover up sexual harassment. Make sure you are still adequately performing your job as expected. This means showing up to work on time and meeting deadlines.

We can combat these common employer defenses to sexual harassment claims through investigation, discovery, and litigation. Send us a message if you have questions about these defenses and we’ll let you know our thoughts.

Scroll to Top