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DuPage County sexual harassment attorneysMost working adults spend a great deal of time around co-workers. Understandably, sometimes sparks fly and an employee develops romantic feelings toward someone he or she works with. If you have found yourself in this situation you may wonder, “Should I ask my co-worker out on a date?” Dating in the workplace is a controversial subject. While there may be some situations in which dating your co-worker results in no negative consequences, beginning a romantic relationship with a colleague at work can sometimes lead to accusations of sexual harassment.

Dating a Subordinate Can Result in Allegations of Quid Pro Quo Harassment

The two types of sexual harassment addressed in the law are quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a person of authority such as a boss, supervisor, or manager implies or outright suggests that he or she will provide work-related benefits if a subordinate employee submits to his or her sexual requests. What many people do not understand is that a boss can be accused of quid pro quo sexual harassment even if he or she never actually explicitly states that he or she will offer employment, continued employment, or work perks in exchange for sexual contact. You can be accused of quid pro quo sexual harassment even if a subordinate that you are dating assumes that sexual favors are being traded for work benefits.

Hostile work environment sexual harassment refers to a situation in which offensive or sexual remarks and behavior make a work environment so intolerable that the harassed individual cannot perform work duties. In order to meet the legal definition of sexual harassment, hostile work environment harassment must be “severe” or “pervasive.” Asking a co-worker out on a date once will not meet the definition of harassment. However, if you repeatedly ask a co-worker out, it could trigger a sexual harassment claim.

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Chicago workplace sexual harassment attorneysMcDonald’s restaurants can be found across the globe. The fast food company is arguably one of the most successful businesses in the history of the world. However, the company has also recently become notorious for the sexual harassment claims made against supervisors and employees. Recently, the CEO and president of McDonald’s was terminated after it was discovered that he had violated company policy through a romantic relationship with an employee. His termination highlights the ever-growing importance of professional boundaries in the workplace and reminds us that sexual harassment is still a major issue in the U.S. and around the world.  

Understanding Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

There are two types of sexual harassment recognized by the law: hostile environment sexual harassment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when sexual or offensive comments, jokes, or actions make a work environment intolerable. Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase meaning “this for that.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a superior trades or attempts to trade sexual interactions for work benefits. For example, a shift manager may imply that a worker will get preferential treatment if he or she accepts the manager’s sexual advances. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can also occur when a superior threatens a negative work consequence if the employee does not accept his or her advances.

Some employees may tolerate unacceptable behavior from a superior because they are afraid of being demoted, transferred, receiving a poor performance review, or fired. It is essential that employees understand that they do not have to tolerate unlawful behavior like this at work.

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysIt has now been about two years since the resurgence of the #MeToo movement began, first with accusations by actress Ashley Judd against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, followed by a Twitter post of support by Alyssa Milano. The #MeToo is a social media “hashtag”—a device intended to track the popularity of a particular topic—that Milano encouraged survivors of sexual assault, rape, and other types of sexual misconduct to use as a show of solidarity with one another.

For many victims, the problem is at work, where managers, co-workers, and even customers behave inappropriately and commit acts of sexual harassment. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, lawmakers in Illinois and around the country have been looking for ways to strengthen laws that combat workplace sexual harassment and to protect those who might otherwise be victimized.

In August of this year, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed The Workplace Transparency Act into law. The new law places a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of employers to provide sexual harassment training to all of their employers, among other requirements.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_hostile-work-environment-claim-form.jpgSexual harassment is a form of sex-based employment discrimination, and it against the law. In general, there are two primary types of workplace sexual harassment: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Both can be damaging to not only the victim’s career but also to their physical and emotional well-being.

“Quid pro quo” is a phrase taken from Latin that means “something for something.” In the context of sexual harassment, it refers to a worker being offered benefits—including continued employment—in exchange for sex-related favors. A manager who promises a raise to a worker if the worker agrees to go on a date with him is probably guilty of quid pro quo harassment. Quid pro quo harassment is often fairly overt and easy to recognize, but this is not always the case with the other type of sexual harassment.

A Hostile Work Environment Can Develop Quietly

Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when the atmosphere in the workplace is such that a reasonable person would find it abusive. A situation may also be considered hostile work environment sexual harassment if the harassment interferes with the victim’s performance of his or her job. This type of harassment is often more subtle than quid pro quo harassment, and the types of behavior involved often give perpetrators what they think is “plausible deniability.”

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysCompanies throughout Illinois and across the country are taking steps to prevent and combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately, however, the problem still exists. One of the most devastating effects of sexual harassment at work is that it can make the victim feel isolated, demoralized, and unsure of how to proceed. Some victims assume that ignoring the issue will eventually make it go away, but this is rarely how things work. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you will need to become your own advocate and tell someone.

Moral Responsibility vs. Legal Responsibility

From a moral standpoint, your employer should conduct business in such a way that makes you feel safe at all times. A case could be made that, morally and ethically, an employer should not tolerate even a single inappropriate comment, pick-up line, or unwanted sexual advance by any of its employees.

Legally, things are much different, at least in most cases. While “quid pro quo” sexual harassment does occur, in which the harasser offers promotions, increased pay, or other favorable treatment in exchange for a “date” or sexual favors, workplace sexual harassment often takes the form of hostile work environment sexual harassment. This type of harassment refers to a repeated, pervasive pattern of behavior that affect the victim’s ability to do his or her job.

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