Representing Chicago and
the Entire State of Illinois
My Chicago office gets many calls from employees who have some common questions. I am going to answer some of these common sexual harassment questions in the hopes that they help you. Many times sexual harassment has common themes and therefore many of these questions and answers will apply to most cases in Chicago.
The first question is: What should I do if my boss is engaging in conversations that make me uncomfortable? In order for the conduct to rise to the level of sexual harassment in Chicago, the conversations must be either sexual in nature or they must be an attempt to have a personal type relationship that the employee views as an attempt at sex. So for example if the boss is asking you if you date much and what types of men you like those would be examples of an attempt at a relationship. There is no business reason for trying to elicit this type of information from you.
The second question would be: What could I do if the boss makes sexual comments to me one-on-one? This is where it gets tricky. Of course if you complain of sexual harassment the burden is on you to prove you were the victim and you must prove your case. The other side doesn’t have to dis-prove anything. This places the burden on you to come up with some evidence. The evidence could be another employee who heard the comments. It could also be text messages and emails. One way to allow a co-worker to hear the comments is to put your boss on speakerphone. Have a co-worker near you to hear what the boss is saying. Of course text messages and email are better because they are very hard to dispute and the other side can’t call into question the motivation of the witness.
The third question would be: How often do sexual harassment cases settle? Well even though each case is different, if you have a case with some evidence I would say over 90% of Chicago sexual harassment cases settle prior to trial. In fact most settle prior to actually filing a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission or in the local circuit court. There are many reasons for this, with the most common being the companies’ reluctance to have negative publicity. Also, the company has to pay an attorney and if they lose the case they will have to pay your attorney. This double legal fee scenario also places pressure on the company and makes it more a good business decision for the company.
The last question I will address is: What should an employee do if she witnesses sexual harassment, comes forward and feels she is being retaliated against? This happens in Chicago more than one would imagine. Many times a company human resource manager will try to distance the company from the sexual harassment by eliminating any witnesses. It is sad but this happens all too often. As an employee you have rights that protect you if you come forward and act as a witness to workplace discrimination. The company may not take any negative job action against you.
The Illinois Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 convey legal employment rights to you as an employee. Those rights can’t be taken away by the company.
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