You have probably seen many news reports about sexual harassment in recent years. After the social media movement #MeToo launched in 2017, more and more people started taking workplace sexual harassment seriously. However, there is still much confusion surrounding exactly what sexual harassment is and is not. Is sexual harassment a crime? What constitutes sexual harassment? Many people are also confused as to the difference between sexual harassment, sexual assault, and “sexual misconduct.” Read on to learn about sexual harassment in Illinois and what you can do if you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work.
Defining Sexual Harassment
According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees cannot be discriminated against or treated differently because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Sexual harassment violates the Civil Rights Act as well as Illinois state laws. Unwanted physical contact, sexual or gender-related comments and jokes, sexual advances, and requests for sexual favors can all be considered harassing behaviors. These behaviors become sexual harassment when the conduct interferes with the victim’s ability to do his or her job. “Quid pro quo” sexual harassment occurs when a superior such as a boss or manager attempts to garner sexual favors from a subordinate in exchange for continued employment or workplace benefits.
Sexual Harassment Is Against the Law
Sexual harassment is typically treated as a civil wrongdoing in the United States. However, some harassing acts may be criminal offenses. For example, if an employee forcibly touches another employee in a sexual way, this can be considered criminal sexual assault. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work, there are several steps you can take to protect your rights. First, report the harassment to the human resources department or your superior preferably in writing via e-mail. If the harassment continues, you should contact an employment litigation attorney before doing anything else. Keep in mind, employers are legally prohibited from retaliating against an employee who reports sexual harassment. Retaliation can include firing the employee, transferring him or her to a less desirable position, reducing his or her work hours, and more. If you were fired or otherwise suffered financial harm as a result of reporting sexual harassment, contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney right away.