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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysThe Civil Rights Act of 1964 and several other federal, state, and local laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment falls under this category of workplace discrimination. There are two main types of sexual harassment addressed by federal law: hostile work environment harassment and “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. Understanding exactly how and when quid pro quo occurs can be difficult—especially when sexual advances are subtle or passed off as a “joke.”

What Does “Quid Pro Quo” Mean?

The phrase quid pro quo means “something for something” in Latin. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer, manager, supervisor, or another person in an authoritative position uses or attempts to use his or her authority to gain a sexual benefit. The most common example of quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a boss or authority figure offering to give an employee a promotion in exchange for sexual contact. The person of authority may also state that the employee will face a negative work consequence such as a poor performance evaluation or reduced work hours if he or she denies a sexual request. While this overt type of harassment does occur, quid pro quo harassment is often much more subtle. The perpetrator may imply or “joke” that it would be in the employee’s best interest to accept his or her advances. This is still sexual harassment.

Victims of quid pro quo harassment may be male or female. The perpetrators of this type of harassment may also be male or female. Harassment may occur between individuals of the opposite sex or the same sex.

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysRemote and work-from-home jobs are more popular than ever. Many employees are still working from home due to COVID-19, while other employees are continuing with remote work even after stay-at-home orders have terminated because it allows for greater flexibility. Unfortunately, working from home does not completely eliminate the risk of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. If you are a remote or work-from-home employee, it is important to understand your right to be free from sexual harassment and what to do if that right has been violated.

Understanding the Law Regarding Hostile Work Environment Harassment

The two types of sexual harassment specifically prohibited by federal law include “quid pro quo” harassment and “hostile work environment” harassment. Quid pro quo refers to a superior using his or her authority in an attempt to gain some type of romantic or sexual benefit. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when an employee’s job is interfered with due to inappropriate or demeaning sexual or gender-based comments or behavior.

A solitary inappropriate remark does not typically fall under the category of hostile work environment harassment. In order to constitute sexual harassment per federal law, offenses must be “severe” or “pervasive.” Sexual assault would be an example of a severe offense that only needs to occur once to violate sexual harassment laws. Offensive comments or jokes become sexual harassment when they are repeated day after day to a point that they interfere with work. Even if you are not sure that offensive behavior counts as sexual harassment, it is important to report the situation to the designated supervisor or manager.

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Illinois sexual harassment lawyersIf you look at Google Trends to see the recent history of the term “sexual harassment,” you can see that this phrase started being searched at a much higher rate about three and half years ago. This is no coincidence. October of 2017 marked the beginning of what has become a revolution against sexual harassment in the workplace. Before the end of that month, over eighty women had made accusations of sexual harassment against media mogul Harvey Weinstein. Allegations against other high-profile individuals quickly followed. Since then, many more women who had silently endured sexual harassment have come forward to report the behavior. Throughout this increased media attention, there has been a great deal of confusion and misinformation about terms like sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a term that is frequently misused. Many people use this phrase to mean undesired sexual attention, and while that can be part of sexual harassment, it is by far not the full definition. From a legal perspective, sexual harassment can only exist in the workplace. So, while the construction worker who catcalls women walking past a construction site is inappropriate and annoying, he or she is not engaging in unlawful sexual harassment.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 led to the current laws regarding sexual harassment. The act prohibits employment discrimination based on ethnicity, sex, color, national origin, or religion. Workplace sexual harassment is considered a type of sex discrimination. There are only two types of sexual harassment according to the law: quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile workplace sexual harassment. The former includes instances where a person in authority requires a subordinate to perform sexual favors in order to keep his or her job or to get a promotion or other workplace perks. Hostile workplace sexual harassment occurs when a colleague’s behavior is so offensive or intimidating that a reasonable person would be unable to perform his or her work duties. Suggestive or sexual remarks, sexual jokes, and placing pornographic material in view of coworkers are examples of behavior that can create a hostile workplace.

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DuPage County sexual harassment lawyersOver the last few years, stories about allegations of sexual harassment seem to constantly be in the news. The most recent reports involving high-profile personalities accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with non-consenting individuals include allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, college football coach Les Miles, and fashion designer Alexander Wang.  The silver lining of these disturbing allegations is that the once-taboo subject of sexual harassment is now being talked about and considered more seriously.

Disturbing Numbers

Unfortunately, however, many reports of sexual harassment do not result in any legal action. In fact, of all the reports of workplace sexual harassment, only an estimated 3 percent to 6 percent of the cases ever make it to trial. Compare this statistic to the percentage of women who report they have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives—which is almost 50 percent—and the problem becomes very apparent.

Although almost half of all women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, only about 5-15 percent of these women report the harassment. Most do not report the inappropriate behavior to their employer because they fear that their employer, boss, or other employees will somehow retaliate. Many victims of sexual harassment also do not make a report because they assume that nothing will come of it. So many cases are dismissed that it discourages other victims from coming forward.

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Illinois sexual harassment lawyersSexual harassment has been in the news more than ever in the last few years. From famous actors to unnamed hotel patrons, women and men who have been victims of sexual harassment are making their voices heard. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of illegal sex discrimination.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employer or superior offers promotions to an employee in exchange for sexual acts or threatens to fire the employee if he or she does not submit to sexual acts. “Hostile work environment” sexual harassment refers to situations where the employee's work environment is made offensive or hostile due to sexual conduct that negatively affects the employee’s work performance.

Patient Harassment is Par for the Course According to Nurses

Nursing is generally considered to be an extremely demanding career, both physically and emotionally. Nurses are responsible for tasks such as starting intravenous lines, taking blood samples, washing patients, and administering medicine, among much more. They are often physically close to their patients and many of these patients are disabled, elderly, taking medicine which can affect their cognitive abilities, or have been using drugs and alcohol. The combination of the close proximity of nurses to patients along with these other factors has resulted in many nurses being put in uncomfortable and inappropriate situations.

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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