Skilled Chicago Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Attorneys
Sexual harassment comes in all varieties in the workplace. It is easy to know when you are being harassed when you have experienced unwelcome touching or have been denied promotion because of your sex or sexual orientation. But sexual harassment and discrimination can also be more subtle. Employers may make it a point to quietly bypass women for certain management positions. Restroom or break facilities for a specific gender may be unequal in cleanliness or left in disrepair. Training opportunities available for other employees may be unavailable.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Some sexual harassment is clear and obvious. This is typically the case in quid pro quo sexual harassment cases: situations in which a supervisor suggests that your job is at risk if you decline or put an end to a sexual relationship, or promises a promotion or other favorable treatment in exchange for sexual favors.
But, there is another type of sexual harassment broadly known as “hostile work environment” claims. Workers suffering from this type of harassment may not realize that they have legal options, and so continue to tolerate the tension and discomfort they feel at work. Over time, this type of environment can impact work performance, relationships, and even health.
Some common examples include persistent sexual jokes or other crude discussion, inappropriate touching, or displaying sexually explicit material in the office.
It is also important to note that anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment. While sexual harassment of women by men is most commonly reported, the victim may be male or female, and the harasser or harassers may be of the opposite sex, the same sex, or a mixed group.
What is Sex Discrimination?
Like sexual harassment, sex discrimination is sometimes easy to recognize and sometimes subtler and more difficult to prove. Today, most sex discrimination cases don’t involve a blanket policy of offering female employees a lower starting wage than male employees or a division of labor that disadvantages one sex.
Rather, sex discrimination is often identified by trends in job assignments, pay rates, promotions and other facets of employment, or by unnecessary requirements that have differing impact on one sex than the other. For example, an employer requiring candidates for a certain job to be able to lift and carry 100 pounds might be found to be engaging in sex discrimination if the job did not actually require that ability, because statistically far more women than men will be disqualified by that test.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include a prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. And, the Illinois Human Rights Act specifically includes sexual orientation in its list of protected characteristics.
Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Statistics
Unfortunately, sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, happens every day. In 2018, EEOC received 24,655 sex discrimination charges, including 7,609 allegations of sexual harassment. And, many people impacted by discrimination and harassment never report their experiences.
In 2017, Pew Research Center surveyed both men and women about several specific types of sex discrimination in the workplace. 42% of women and 22% of men said they’d experienced at least one of the listed types of discrimination. Black women, women 30 and older and women with postgraduate degrees reported experiencing workplace discrimination at higher rates than other groups.
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.
How seriously do we take sexual harassment and discrimination?
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that sexual harassment is a violation of the federal Civil Rights Act. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against, harass, create or permit a hostile work environment and/or retaliate against an employee because of gender or sexual orientation. It is also unlawful for an employer to discriminate, harass or retaliate against an employee because of the employee’s association with another person (i.e., spouse, child, parent) in a protected class, and/or because of an employee’s reports and/or exercise of rights or opposition to unlawful discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.
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.
Protecting Your Rights To Work Free Of Harassment And Discrimination
If you feel that you have done all you can to bring sexual harassment or discrimination to your employer’s attention and are not being heard, it may be time to protect your rights and dignity through the courts. Illinois has some of the toughest laws in the nation regarding harassment and discrimination. If you work (or worked) in the Chicago metropolitan area or anywhere in Northern Illinois and wish to discuss your workplace circumstances, schedule a Request Free Case Evaluation with an attorney at Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil, LLC, in Chicago.
We are a team of experienced trial lawyers with a proud record of standing up for workers facing discrimination, a hostile work environment and wrongful discrimination because of their gender or sexual orientation.
Contact Our Experienced Attorneys
Our firm represents plaintiffs who experience the negative consequences of sexual harassment and discrimination on the job in the Greater Chicago metropolitan area and Northern Illinois. Call us at 630-232-7450 or contact the office by email or fax to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced Chicago sexual harassment and discrimination attorneys.
Our office hours in Chicago and Geneva are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Evening and weekend appointments may be available by special arrangement. We also represent groups of workers and handle all cases in strict confidentiality. We are workplace harassment and discrimination lawyers serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.