Do I Need to Report Workplace Sexual Harassment to My Employer?
Companies throughout Illinois and across the country are taking steps to prevent and combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately, however, the problem still exists. One of the most devastating effects of sexual harassment at work is that it can make the victim feel isolated, demoralized, and unsure of how to proceed. Some victims assume that ignoring the issue will eventually make it go away, but this is rarely how things work. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you will need to become your own advocate and tell someone.
Moral Responsibility vs. Legal Responsibility
From a moral standpoint, your employer should conduct business in such a way that makes you feel safe at all times. A case could be made that, morally and ethically, an employer should not tolerate even a single inappropriate comment, pick-up line, or unwanted sexual advance by any of its employees.
Legally, things are much different, at least in most cases. While “quid pro quo” sexual harassment does occur, in which the harasser offers promotions, increased pay, or other favorable treatment in exchange for a “date” or sexual favors, workplace sexual harassment often takes the form of hostile work environment sexual harassment. This type of harassment refers to a repeated, pervasive pattern of behavior that affect the victim’s ability to do his or her job.
Under both Illinois and federal law, an employer does have a legal responsibility to prevent sexual harassment, but the employer can only address negative behaviors that he or she knows are happening. For example, if every day at work, a co-worker in the workspace next to yours shares graphic stories about his sex life, your employer might have no idea that this is going on. Until the employer is made aware of the sexual harassment, the company can’t be held responsible for allowing the sexual harassment to continue.
Who Should You Tell?
As difficult as it might be, it is important to report instances of sexual harassment in writing as soon you can. Before doing so, you should consider writing down everything you can remember about what happened, who was involved, what was said, and when. Then you will need to figure out where to make your written report.
If your company has an established policy for reporting sexual harassment, you should follow the policy if possible and make sure to also e-mail the report to with person you spoke with. In many workplaces, this means that your initial report should be made to the Human Resources department. If your company does not have an HR department, you might need to go straight to senior management. A qualified workplace discrimination attorney can help you decide how to proceed, especially if the harassment is coming from members of senior management.
An Illinois Sexual Harassment Attorney Can Provide Guidance
For more information about reporting sexual harassment and how to protect your rights, contact an experienced DuPage County workplace sexual harassment lawyer. Call 630-665-7300 for confidential consultation at Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella today. We are happy to discuss your situation with you and help you decide on the best way to proceed.