What Can an Employee Do About Sexual Harassment?
Sexual Harassment Attorneys Serving Victims in DuPage, Kendall, and Will Counties
Victims of sexual harassment should not feel powerless, even if they are told there is nothing that can be done about the offending conduct. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many state laws give victims of sexual harassment strong rights. A sexual harassment attorney can help you learn what your rights and options are.
It is not unusual for perpetrators of sexual harassment to claim that they were unaware that their conduct was offensive. This makes speaking up very important. If you can make it clear to the offender that their conduct is inappropriate, they may stop simply because they did not realize that their conduct was offensive. If speaking up does not resolve the situation, you will at least be able to demonstrate that the offender and your employer had been made aware of inappropriate behavior.
Depending on the company you work for, there may be specific policies in place on how to address issues of sexual harassment. If your company has such a policy, you should follow the exact procedures dictated by your company. If there are certain individuals designated to hear sexual harassment claims, you should bring your complaint to those individuals.
If your company does not have a set policy, you should take your complaints to your immediate supervisor. If your supervisor is the one that has victimized you, you should bring the behavior to the attention of your supervisor's immediate superior or to your company's human resources department. In hostile environment cases, it is important that your company's management know that a problem exists.
It is also important to document and record each complaint you make in a sexual harassment log and to include all important details, such as who you told, what their response was, the dates and times of your complaints, and any other details you consider important. You should also preserve a record of your complaint by sending a summary of what occurred to the appropriate people by e-mail and keep a copy of your e-mail and their response for your records.
Filing a Charge of Discrimination
If your claim is not resolved through your company's internal procedures, you may decide to file a claim through the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). The the IDHR will investigate your claim and attempt to resolve the issue. If you have not enlisted the support of an experienced sexual harassment attorney, you may decide to do so at this time.
If the government agency does not proceed with your claim for any reason, it will issue you a notice called a “right to sue” notice. If this happens, you are now able to bring your case to court. If the agency finds sufficient evidence of sexual harassment but is not able to resolve the issue with your employer, the agency may decide to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
If you are issued a “right to sue” letter, you are able to file a civil lawsuit against your employer for the injuries you suffered because of the sexual harassment. The injuries do not have to be physical, and in many cases, they may be emotional or financial.
If you win your sexual harassment lawsuit, you may be entitled to be reinstated in your job if you lost your job as a result of the harassment, you could be awarded back pay if you lost pay or were denied a raise or promotion based on the harassment, you could be compensated for loss of fringe benefits, you could receive monetary damages for emotional distress or other forms of harm you have suffered, and you could be awarded attorney's fees and court costs. Additionally, the court may order that your employer institute a sexual harassment policy and/or training program to ensure that sexual harassment does not occur in the future.
In certain states, if you are able to prove that your employer acted with malice or reckless indifference, you may be able to obtain punitive damages. In Illinois, employers are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to employers on an annual basis. Failure to meet this requirement may result in fines or other penalties. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can advise you if punitive damages may be available to you or if you have other options for addressing your employer's failure to protect against sexual harassment or address harassment that has affected you or others.
Contact Our Illinois Sexual Harassment Attorneys
Our employment discrimination attorneys know all the applicable laws—those related to employment discrimination and those covered by other legislation. Contact a knowledgeable employment discrimination lawyer at Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC at 630-665-7300 to discuss filing an employment discrimination claim.