Over the last few years, sexual harassment and other types of sexual misconduct have become extremely hot-button issues, and for good reason. However, there is often a great deal of confusion regarding what the various terms used to describe the types of misconduct actually mean—at least when it comes to the law. For example, it is not uncommon to hear someone complain about being sexually harassed on the street or in a bar, but “sexual harassment” is not a criminal offense in Illinois. There may be other criminal offenses that encompass harassing behavior of a sexual nature, but none is called “sexual harassment.”
Sexual harassment, according to its legal definition, is a type of sex-based employment discrimination, and it includes several kinds of behavior. A manager who requests sexual favors in return for a promotion or workplace perks may be guilty of sexual harassment. Similarly, a group of workers who foster an environment of sexually-charged comments and jokes could also be committing acts of sexual harassment. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, you have the right to take action, and such action could eventually take the form of a lawsuit. But, should you sue just your employer? Or, should you name individual managers or supervisors and attempt to hold them personally liable as well?
Complexities of Law
In general, if you are filing a sexual harassment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, your manager or supervisor is not likely to have individual liability, even if he or she was the primary perpetrator of the harassment in question. Instead, your claim would be filed against your employer, and you could name the individual in your description of what happened. However, if you are filing a sexual harassment claim under the Illinois Human Rights Act, you could file a claim against the individual harasser.