How Do State and Federal Laws Protect Sexual Harassment Victims?

Wheaton, IL sexual harassment lawyer

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that affects many people across many industries. People who experience sexual harassment are likely to suffer a number of negative effects, including a loss of income and emotional trauma that may affect their life and their ability to work and earn income in the future. 

To help address this problem, federal and state laws provide important protections for victims of sexual harassment. An experienced attorney can provide invaluable legal help for those facing such challenges, helping victims understand their rights and their options for addressing sexual harassment they have experienced. 

Federal Laws Protecting Victims of Sexual Harassment

At the federal level, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) is the primary legislation that addresses sexual harassment. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and it prohibits discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual harassment. Under Title VII, victims of sexual harassment can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days from the day the sexual harassment occurred. The protections available to sexual harassment victims include:

  • Prohibition of sexual harassment: Title VII forbids discrimination based on sex, which can include unwelcome sexual advances or requests, as well as other physical acts or verbal comments that are considered to be sexual and cause a person to experience distress.
  • Employer liability: Employers can be held liable for sexual harassment if they knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate corrective action.
  • Retaliation prohibition: Victims are protected against retaliation for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation regarding sexual harassment.

Illinois State Laws Enhancing Protections

Illinois has enacted laws that further strengthen protections against sexual harassment, offering additional safeguards that go beyond federal provisions. The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) applies to employers with one or more employees, expanding the reach of anti-harassment protections to nearly all workings in the state. Key aspects of the IHRA include:

  • Broader employer coverage: Unlike federal law, the IHRA applies to almost all employers in Illinois, regardless of the number of employees.
  • Expanded definition of harassment: The IHRA offers a broader definition of harassment, which includes any unwanted conduct on the basis of sex or any other protected characteristic that may affect a person’s performance at work or may seem to be intimidating or offensive.
  • State agency support: Victims can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) within 300 days of the alleged incident, providing a longer timeframe than the federal limit.

How Victims Can Seek Help

Victims of sexual harassment have several avenues for addressing these issues, including:

  • Reporting internally: Employers should have procedures in place for reporting sexual harassment. Victims should follow these protocols whenever possible. By informing their employers, they can ensure that steps will be taken to stop sexual harassment from occurring in the future.
  • Filing a complaint: A victim can file a complaint with the IDHR which in Illinois will also automatically be filed in most cases with the EEOC, depending on the specifics of their situation. The IDHR will investigate their claim and may take legal action against an employer to address the harm a person has suffered and ensure the proper measures are in place to protect the safety and well-being of all employees.
  • Seeking legal assistance: An attorney who has experience with sexual harassment cases can provide victims with guidance on their rights and help them understand the best course of action. In some cases, lawsuits may be filed against an employer or a person who committed sexual harassment, and a victim may receive compensation for wages they have lost, emotional trauma, or other ways they have been affected.

Contact a Wheaton Sexual Harassment Attorney

When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, an attorney can help protect the rights of a victim and seek justice on their behalf. At Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC., our DuPage County sexual harassment lawyers understand the complexities of state and federal laws that address these issues, and we are committed to providing compassionate legal representation for victims. Contact us at 630-665-7300 to set up a consultation where you can discuss your situation and explore your legal options.

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From our law office in Wheaton, IL the family law and civil litigation law attorneys of Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick and Mirabella, represent businesses and individual clients throughout the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois including Wheaton, Naperville, Oak Brook, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, Lombard, Downers Grove, Burr Ridge, Lisle, Elmhurst, Oakbrook Terrace, Winfield, Woodridge, Warrenville and throughout DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties.

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In honor of the passing of our founder, Joseph F. Mirabella, Jr., our offices are closed Friday, January 31, 2020.I Agree