Chicago Hostile Work Environment Lawyer

Woman feeling upset, while her coworkers are talking in the backyard

Illinois law considers a hostile work environment (HWE) harassment, which is considered an unlawful form of discrimination. At Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil (FMCO), our Chicago employment attorneys are fully committed to protecting our clients from unfair treatment at the workplace. 

Contact us to discuss your case so we can determine whether you have a viable claim. If you do, you can count on our hostile work environment attorneys to fight for your rights. We routinely handle claims involving workplace discrimination and have a history of successful outcomes. Your initial consultation will be free and we will charge you nothing until we win you the compensation you deserve.

Legal Protection from Hostile Work Environment

For well over half a century, U.S. laws have moved toward offering more and more protections for workers’ rights, including:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination (PDA)
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA) 
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 

Although the word “harassment” is frequently associated with sexual harassment, the concept also applies to discriminatory behavior based on actual or perceived:

  • Age
  • Race
  • National origin
  • Skin color
  • Gender 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex (including sexual harassment)
  • National origin
  • Military status

In short, your employer is responsible for maintaining a workplace in which you can work in an atmosphere that is accepting and non-discriminatory without fear of being targeted by any of the above-protected traits.

What Our Hostile Work Environment Attorneys Can Do

If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment in Chicagoland, contact our office in Geneva to stop being victimized. Though you may be frightened to risk your job security by complaining, our hostile work environment lawyers have the knowledge and sharp skills to empower you in your fight for fair treatment. 

We can investigate exactly what has occurred at your workplace by:

  • Collecting evidence (e.g. inappropriate posted images, cartoons, phone records, emails, texts, social media posts)
  • Interviewing witnesses 
  • Following your trail of complaints to the defendant, your supervisor, Human Resources department, state or federal agencies
  • Attempting to negotiate a fair settlement with your employer
  • Filing a lawsuit against your employer if out-of-court negotiations fail 

It is essential to understand that the law will also protect you from retaliation for standing up 

for your rights. If an employer attempts to demote, terminate, or otherwise punish you for complaining or taking legal action, we will make sure the individual or entity faces increased civil charges. 

What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?

Just about everyone has occasional run-ins with a coworker or manager who is rude or abrasive. However, to consider your workplace hostile, comments, or intrusive behavior must be pervasive and interfere with your ability to do your job. 

It should be noted that the person or persons harassing you may be not only coworkers or supervisors but vendors, service providers, customers, or clients. Once your employer is informed about the harassment, the company is mandated to take steps to put an end to it.

The legal standard for a hostile work environment is that the comments or actions that target you must be directed at you because you belong to a legally protected minority and would be considered offensive by any reasonable person. Of course, this is a subjective standard that often makes claims of a hostile work environment difficult to prove. That’s why you need an experienced attorney at your side.

You should be aware that there are limits to existing laws. For instance, Title VII and the ADA only cover employers with 15 or more employees and the ADEA only applies to businesses with 20 or more workers. Fortunately, the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA)  closes such loopholes since it protects even workers who are the sole employee of their company.

Necessary First Steps Before Filing a HWE Lawsuit

Before filing a discrimination lawsuit, you must ask the offender to stop harassing you and, if the problem continues, report it to your supervisor or human resources. In addition, you are required to file a workplace harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) before you file a lawsuit in federal or state court. 

Examples of Misconduct that Create a Hostile Work Environment

There are many ways to create a hostile work environment, including:

  • Telling inappropriate jokes
  • Hurling epithets based on race, national origin, or another protected characteristic
  • Calling the targeted person a derogatory name or word
  • Insulting others for their protected characteristic
  • Ridiculing or mimicking speech, accent, mannerisms
  • Frightening or intimidating through words or actions
  • Threats or gestures of violence 

Specific examples include imitating the way a disabled person walks, mocking a person’s religious beliefs, and using a derogatory nickname based on a person’s sexual identity.

Damages FMCO Will Fight to Win

If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, you may be entitled to damages for:

  • Lost income
  • Lost benefits (e.g. health, pension)
  • Lost bonuses
  • Emotional distress
  • Attorneys’ fees and court costs

Contact Our Experienced Hostile Work Environment Attorneys Now

We know all too well how painful and humiliating it is to be attacked with barbs and insults every day at work and feel powerless to stop them. But once you get in touch with us, we will offer you the strong legal representation you need to level the playing field. Contact us today to take back control of your life and see that justice is done.