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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 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 retaliation lawyersAcross the country, men and women are saying “no more” to workplace sexual harassment. No one should be made to tolerate demeaning sexual remarks and behavior while they are at work. However, many people stay silent about sexual harassment because they are afraid reporting the sexual harassment will get them fired. Fortunately, there are laws in place which prohibit employers from firing an employee for making a sexual harassment complaint.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

There are two types of sexual harassment recognized by the law: quid pro quo and hostile work environment harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a superior attempts to trade sexual attention for workplace perks or continued employment. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when derogatory, discriminatory, or sexual comments and behavior interferes with an employee’s ability to do his or her job.

Can I Sue for Wrongful Termination?

Illinois is an at-will state, which means an employee can be fired at any time and for almost any reason. However, there are several exceptions to the at-will rule. Legally, an Illinois employer cannot fire an employee for discriminatory reasons or in retaliation for the employee exercising his or her rights. Sexual harassment is a type of employment discrimination protected against by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws. If the only reason a person was fired was because they complained about sexual harassment, they may bring a wrongful termination lawsuit against the employer.

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Illinois workplace sexual harassment lawyerOver the last year, national news headlines have been dominated by one story after the next about allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other types of inappropriate sexual behavior. While they have different names depending on the jurisdiction, sexual assault and other types of unwelcome sexual contact are criminal acts. Sexual harassment, however, is a different story. By law, sexual harassment is a form of sex-based employment discrimination. While it is still illegal, it is a matter that is handled through state and federal agencies, as well as the civil court system.

Because it is an employment-related matter, sexual harassment is also somewhat easier to recognize and address than acts of sexual violence often are. Sexual harassment can even be prevented and avoided if those who work together are willing to have open and honest conversations about the topic. Depending on where you work, management may be willing to facilitate such discussion. If a formal meeting is not feasible, consider opening lines of communication with your coworkers on your own—regardless of your gender or your previous experience with sexual harassment.

Men and Women Must Communicate

In many cases, sexual harassment is the manifestation of a power struggle. For example, men who have worked with only other men for many years may feel threatened—even subconsciously—by the introduction of a female coworker. Similarly, a person in a managerial position may get a thrill out of flirting or making sexual advances toward a subordinate as a result of the power differential. However, sexual harassment can also occur due to the differences in the perspectives of men and women.

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Illinois sexual harassment lawyersBeing mistreated at work can be isolating and demoralizing. Many people who find themselves on the receiving end of unwanted sexual attention at work are completely unsure of what to do about it. Some assume that if they ignore the sexual harassment that it will go away, but unfortunately this is rarely the case. If you are being sexually harassed by a colleague or supervisor, you should know that you have every right to stand up for yourself. In fact, doing so will not only help you, but also helps prevent future sexual harassment in your workplace. If you have experienced sexual harassment, do not stay silent.

Survey Confirms Sexual Harassment is Sadly Common

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, approximately 17 percent of women and 7 percent of men claimed to have experienced sexual harassment at work. Data shows that younger employees experience harassment at a more frequent rate than other age groups. The majority of sexual harassment victims do not report the mistreatment or even confront their harasser for fear of being labeled a “trouble-maker” or losing their jobs.

What to Do If You Are Being Sexually Harassed

If you have been the victim of inappropriate and harmful harassment at work, first, know that this behavior is unacceptable. You have a legal right to be free from sexual harassment per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Illinois Human Rights Act. The first step in fighting against sexual harassment is to document any and all instances of the inappropriate behavior. Record what was said and done, who was involved, and how the incident has negatively affected your ability to do your job. Next, report the harassment to a superior or your HR department via e-mail so that you have an electronic record of what you reported. If you report the sexual harassment and your employer still refuses to take corrective action, you should immediately meet with a trustworthy employment lawyer.

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