Sexual Harassment

Have you been subjected to a hostile work environment littered with derogatory comments, sexually offensive comments or inappropriate touching? Is your boss or co-worker openly staring or leering at you in a sexual manner? Do you believe that you are being sexually harassed?

The attorneys at Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O'Neil, LLC, are experienced in representing employees who have experienced and endured sexual harassment in the workplace. Our attorneys are excellent listeners and have decades of experience in representing employees in sexual harassment claims at companies of all sizes.

I think I am a victim of sexual harassment. What are my legal rights?

Employees have important legal rights that protect them from workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault or battery. Under federal law, sexual harassment in the workplace is considered a form of sex (gender) discrimination. Sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and regulations set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Federal EEOC regulations assert that unwelcome sexual advances,requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment; (2) submission or rejection to such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. The harassing comments need not be sexual in nature; offensive remarks about a person's sex can suffice. Moreover, sexual harassment can be same-sex harassment.

Based on the EEOC regulations and federal case law, two theories exist for an employee bringing a sexual harassment claim: the quid pro quo theory and the hostile work environment theory. A quid pro quo theory claim exists when an employee suffers a tangible employment action resulting from a refusal to submit to a supervisor's sexual demands. Under the hostile work environment theory, a claim exists if the co-worker's conduct toward the employee is considered severe or pervasive in the eyes of a reasonable person and the conduct creates an abusive work environment. Title VII allows an employee to bring a claim under either the quid pro quo theory or the hostile work environment theory.

What Is A Sexual Harassment Case?

No sexual harassment case is the same. Each case presents a unique set of circumstances. Because no case is the same, our skilled attorneys are trained to help you navigate your case specific legal needs. We listen, and we advocate for your rights.

Generally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") is the administrative agency that governs sexual harassment experienced in the workplace. In most cases, in order to bring a claim in federal court, you must first exhaust all administrative remedies and file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This constitutes sexual harassment when the conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile,or offensive work environment.

Examples of possible sexual harassment cases include:

  • Under a quid pro quo theory, a retail assistant manager is stripped of her assistant manager title for refusing to submit to the general manager's sexual advances.
  • Under a hostile work environment theory, male co-workers post obscene cartoons in the office men's bathroom bearing a female employee's name and depicting her engaging in crude sexual acts.
  • Under a hostile work environment theory, a factory worker is repeatedly subjected to sexual slurs and vulgar, sexually related epithets from co-workers, and is told that the language is "standard operating procedure" in the factory.

The harassment occurred in private. How can I prove that I am a victim of sexual harassment?

It is rarely the case that sexual harassment occurs on only one occasion. So, when harassment does occur, it is important to document the instances — especially if they are occurring in private. Keeping a calendar log, which can help you remember instances of harassment, may be very helpful in proving your case.

Contact an employment law attorney as soon as possible to discuss whether you should start documenting the instances of harassment, and if so, what you should include.

When To Contact A Lawyer

Contact Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O'Neil, LLC for a Free Case Evaluation if you have been:

  • Sexually harassed or asked to perform sexual acts
  • Denied a promotion as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Denied training as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Denied time off or vacation time as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Forced to endure sexually offensive comments or sexually based epithets
  • Scheduled for unfavorable shifts, work hours or days as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Demoted or transferred to a less favorable position as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Unfairly disciplined as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Denied benefits or privileges of employment that others are provided as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment;
  • Paid less or denied bonuses as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Terminated as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment
  • Otherwise subjected to a hostile work environment, harassed, discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly (differently) as a result of being sexually harassed or complaining/reporting sexual harassment

I was sexually harassed many years ago, can I still bring a claim?

Here at FMCO, we realize that it takes great courage to come forward and discuss your sexual harassment story. Remember, we are here to listen, and our consultations are completely confidential. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are very important, strict time limitations that govern your ability to bring a claim involving sexual harassment. It is imperative that you seek immediate legal advice if you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment.

As mentioned above, each sexual harassment case has its own unique set of circumstances. Thus, it is crucial to speak with an attorney who can help you determine whether or not you can still bring a claim.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, contact Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O'Neil, LLC, in Geneva, Illinois, by calling 630-232-7450.