Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against people on the basis of a number of protected groups: race, religion, color, national origin, or sex. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination and therefore violates the Act.
Federal and State Protection
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is any “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature…when submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions…or such conduct has the purpose or effect of…creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”
In addition to federal law, Illinois also precludes such conduct at the state level. Sexual harassment and other discriminatory conduct are illegal under the Illinois Human Rights Act, which is enforced by the Illinois Department of Human Rights. According to the state Act, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Submission to such conduct is either expressed or suggested;
- Submission or rejection of the conduct by an employee is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting that employee; or
- Such conduct interferes with the employee’s job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual Harassment in Higher Education
It’s also important to note that in higher education, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome advance or request for sexual favors made by an executive, administrative staff, or faculty member to a student or any conduct of a sexual nature exhibited by such person(s) toward a student when such conduct substantially interferes with the students’ educational performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment.
If you believe that you have been sexually harassed or discriminated against in Illinois, you must file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights within 180 days of the incident – whether or not you are trying to use other methods, such as through your union, to resolve the issue. You may however withdraw your charge if the issue is resolved through the other method.
You must also file a charge of sexual harassment, or discrimination, with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged act(s) or 30 days after receiving notice that the Illinois Department of Human Rights has terminated its processing of the charge, whichever occurs first. Then, if the EEOC does not reach a finding within 180 days of filing your charge, you must request a Notice of a Right to Sue letter. Then a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 must be filed within 90 days of the EEOC issuing the Right to Sue letter.
If you are successful in your claim of sexual harassment (discrimination), you may receive a variety of damages. Such damages include:
- An order demanding that the harassment cease;
- Recovery of lost wages and other job-related losses that occurred because of the harassment;
- Compensation for personal injuries (this also includes mental and emotional injuries in addition to physical ones);
- Punitive damages against the harasser(s) and/or company; and
- Recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs.
The IL Employment Law Attorneys at ST Legal Group Can Help
If you have been discriminated against in the workplace and believe that it is because of an illegal reason (a state-protected reason or a reason related to you belonging to a protected class of people), you should be able to remedy the situation through monetary compensation and/or reinstatement to your position. A reputable advocate for toxic workplace situations can help you to fight for what you deserve. The qualified attorneys at ST Legal Group can help to protect your employment rights. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!