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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysYou 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.

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysFew would disagree that the #MeToo movement has changed the way most people think of workplace sexual harassment in the United States. The movement began in October 2017 when social media users started using the hashtag “Me Too,” to signify that they had been a victim of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, or other wrongdoing. The social media phenomenon came on the heels of sexual harassment allegations against several high-profile celebrities including film producer Harvey Weinstein. It is impossible to know exactly how much success this movement has had in reducing workplace sexual harassment, but a recent study has offered some interesting new information.

Women Polled About Sexual Harassment Show Changing Work Landscape

Researchers from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business polled women in 2016 and then again in 2018 regarding sexual harassment at their workplaces. The survey shows that while sexual harassment is declining in some ways, that there are still issues surrounding inappropriate comments towards women at work.

Many of the women surveyed reported that certain types of harassing behavior such as staring, leering, and other unwanted sexual attention is less of an issue now than it was two years ago. Nearly 70 percent of women said that they were the subject of unsolicited sexual attention at work in 2016, but only a quarter of respondents said that they dealt with unwanted sexual attention at work in 2018. In 2016, 25 percent of women reported being the victim of sexual coercion while this number dropped to 16 percent in 2018.

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysMany people spend more time with their co-workers than they do with their friends and family. Understandably, sparks between colleagues can fly and Cupid’s arrow can strike even at work. So, what happens when an employee wants to ask a co-worker on a date? Sexual harassment issues have recently taken center stage in the United States and in many other places around the world. Men and women alike are saying “no more” to employment discrimination and workplace sexual harassment. If you want to start a romantic relationship with a co-worker, there are several things you should keep in mind so that you can avoid sexual harassment allegations.

Find Out Your Company’s Policy on Office Relationships

Research shows that about one out of every three adults in the U.S have been in or are currently engaged in an office romance. While romantic or sexual relationships between co-workers have always been slightly taboo, they are even more dangerous in the #MeToo era. Because of this, many companies have instituted strict rules about office relationships. Some companies ban romantic relationships between co-workers altogether, and many others have procedures for reporting the relationship to the human resources department. Although you may wish to keep your relationship private for personal reasons, violating your company’s policy regarding office romances is a risky career move. If you keep the relationship a secret, it could make the situation look much more sinister than it really is.

Relationships Between Supervisors and Subordinates Spell Major Trouble 

A relationship between a boss and a subordinate is the most concerning type of office relationship. Even if the relationship or sexual activity is consensual, the relationship can cause a serious conflict of interest. If you are a boss and you are interested in asking a subordinate out on a date, consider this: You do not have to explicitly say you will trade sexual favors for workplace perks in order to be accused of sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employee in a supervisor or boss position uses his or her authority to gain sexual contact from a subordinate. If a subordinate assumes that going on a date or agreeing to sexual contact with you will benefit him or her at work, the situation could come dangerously close to illegal sexual harassment.

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysThe issue of workplace sexual harassment is no longer a concealed topic. More and more brave victims are coming forward and saying “enough is enough” with regard to the discriminatory and humiliating problem of sexual harassment. However, there are still many myths and misunderstandings surrounding sexual harassment.

If you have experienced any version of sexual harassment at work, you should know that you do not have to tolerate this behavior. Both state and federal laws prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee who makes a sexual harassment complaint. If you make a sexual harassment complaint to a superior and you are fired or otherwise “punished” for speaking up, you may have a valid retaliation claim.

Sexual Harassment is Not Always Easy to Recognize

In television and movies, sexual harassment is usually extremely blatant and obvious. However, real life examples of sexual harassment are not always easy to identify. For example, many people incorrectly assume that sexual harassment only involves unwelcome sexual advances or demands for sexual contact of some kind. However, sexual harassment can also include unfair treatment or derogatory comments or behavior which is directed toward someone because of their gender. A superior who makes disparaging remarks about men or women could be guilty of sexual harassment even if the comments were not actually sexual in nature.

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneyEveryone deserves to work in a place that they feel safe and respected. Unfortunately, sexual harassment continues to be an issue in workplaces in Illinois as well as across the country. Sexual harassment is a type of employment discrimination protected against by state and federal law.

The two main types of sexual harassment are quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Just as the name implies, hostile work environment harassment occurs when sexual or gender-related comments and behaviors become so intolerable, it makes an employee unable to do his or her job. However, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of actions constitute hostile work environment sexual harassment.

Examples of Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

There are nearly countless actions which could be considered sexual harassment. Sometimes hostile work environment sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual or romantic advances. For example, if a person’s coworker constantly asks him or her on dates or makes comments like, “When are you going to finally go out with me?” this could potentially be harassment. Unwanted physical contact can also be considered sexual harassment. Employees who do not wish to be touched, hugged, or receive shoulder rubs or other physical contact should have the right to be free from such touching at work. Repeated inappropriate jokes or comments about a person’s body, sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender can also constitute sexual harassment.

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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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