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DuPage County sexual harassment attorney workplace discrimination

By now, most people are fully aware that sexual harassment is a type of workplace discrimination that should not be tolerated. When it becomes public knowledge that a company or employer allowed such harassment to continue, that company is often the subject of public scrutiny and boycotts in addition to claims for damages by the victims in question. But, what about the victims themselves? Unfortunately, being a victim of sexual harassment can cause a variety of health issues that could last for many years to come.

Mental Health Concerns

The laws that address sexual harassment in the United States are primarily focused on the responsibility of employers to prevent, identify, and address instances of sexual harassment as a form of employment discrimination. The reality, however, is that the behaviors that constitute sexual harassment are actually forms of physical or emotional abuse. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that sexual harassment victims often suffer serious mental health effects.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_stop-retaliation-sexual-harassment-whistleblower.jpgMost people know that sexual harassment is against the law. However, many do not realize that it is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment. Retaliation can take many different forms, but most involve the employee receiving some type of negative work-related consequence. If an employer retaliates against an employee for filing a sexual harassment complaint, the employee may be entitled to damages. 

You Have a Right to Oppose Unlawful Practices

Equal Employment Opportunity laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who report EEO violations. It is unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against a job applicant or employee who:

  • Complains or threatens to complain about sexual harassment or discrimination
  • Refuses to follow an order that is reasonably thought to be discriminatory
  • Gathers information or evidence from coworkers about a potential EEO claim or
  • Participates in an investigation into alleged sexual harassment or discrimination

When someone is the victim of sexual harassment, including hostile work environment harassment or quid pro quo harassment, he or she has a legal right to report the harassment. Whether it is a verbal complaint or a formal report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, reporting sexual harassment is a protected act.

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Illinois sexual harassmentThe term sexual harassment often garners a strong response, but it is often misunderstood. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other federal and state legislation, it is unlawful for employees to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender. Sexual harassment is one type of sex-based discrimination millions of men and women face every year. Sadly, many victims stay silent about harassment simply because they do not understand their rights.

There are a number of common misconceptions that exist regarding sexual harassment including:

Myth 1: Only Women Can Be Victims of Sexual Harassment

Although women experience sexual harassment on a more frequent basis, men can also be sexually harassed. In fact, about one out of every five sexual harassment complaints reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are filed by men. Men may suffer sexual harassment from both female and male harassers. Many men are hesitant about reporting the harassment because they fear they will not be believed, or they do not realize that the law protects both genders from this unacceptable mistreatment.

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Illinois sexual harassment attorneysIn 1964, congress passed the Civil Rights Act which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, religion, national origin, or race. In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specified that sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act. Although workplace sexual harassment has been against the law for 30 years, many believe that the issue has never been taken as seriously as is has in recent years. Spurred by the social media #MeToo movement and a number of other events, more and more women and men are coming forward and reporting sexual harassment. Now, one of the biggest companies in the world is facing a major lawsuit regarding alleged systemic sexual harassment.

Workers Claim McDonald’s Does Not Take Enough Action to Address Sexual Harassment

Recently, McDonald’s staff in Florida announced that they were filing a $500 million sexual harassment lawsuit against the fast food chain. The two women named in the lawsuit have filed the suit on behalf of the 5,000 women who work at the Florida restaurants. They claim that many staff are subject to sexual and derogatory comments, jokes, and even physical assaults.

One of the women explained that she had been forced to endure rude comments about her body, unwanted sexual contact, and explicit pictures while she was simply trying to do her job. When she reported her coworkers’ unacceptable behavior, she claims that her work hours were reduced and that she was eventually fired.

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DuPage County sexual harassment lawyersOver 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.

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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