Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
When investigating allegations of sexual harassment the whole record is reviewed: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII or any other law..
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission handles claims on the federal level. They enforce federal anti-discrimination laws including laws against sexual harassment. The claim must be filed within 300 days of the occurence.
The EEOC can be contacted at:
U.S. Equal Employment Oppor. Comm'n Chicago District Office
500 W. Madison,
Chicago, IL 60611-2511
(312) 353-2713; 2714
(312) 353-2421 (TDD)
(312) 353-7355 (Fax)
The State of Illinois uses both the Illinois Department of Human Rights and Illinois Human Rights Commission to handle claims under the Illnois Human Rights Act. Claims must be filed within 180 days of the occurence.
A charge is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and an agent is assigned to investigate the claim. If the claim is found to have merit a charge is filed with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. An individual has a right to file a charge with the Illinois Human Rights Commission even if the IDHR does not find their claim to have merit.
The Human Rights Commission assigns an administrative judge to the case and a public hearing is held to determine the merits of the claim.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights can be contacted at:
Illinois Department of Human Rights
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 263-1579 (TDD)
(312) 814-1541 (Fax)
If you live in Cook County you can file a charge with the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights is charged with applying the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.
The Commission on Human Rights can be contacted at:
Cook County Commission on Human Rights
69 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 603-1101 (TDD)
(312) 603-9988 (FAX)
The city of Chicago Commission on Human Relations hears complaints filed by plaintiffs and can award monetary damages to the successful plaintiff.
Filing a charge with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations is free and no lawyer is required to pursue a case. Though it is generally advisable to hire a lawyer to represent you as the defendant usually will and the legal arguments will be more familiar to a lawyer.
The Commission on Human Relations can be contacted at:
Chicago Commission on Human Relations
740 N. Sedgwick,
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 744-1088 (TDD)
(312) 744-1081 (FAX)