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Caras Law Group has years of experience in handling workplace sexual harassment cases in Chicago.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Both Illinois and Federal law generally define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual conduct.
Sexual harassment occurs when employment is conditioned, expressly or implicitly, on the submission to unwelcome sexual advances.
The more frequent type of sexual harassment, hostile environment harassment, generally occurs when the employee’s work environment is made hostile or abusive by sexual misconduct.
Under the law, harassment includes gender harassment or sex-based harassment, i.e.,conduct that shows hostility based on gender even though the conduct itself was not sexual.
Types of Harassment include, but are not limited to:
Hostile Work Environment
Physical Harassment At Work
Verbal Abuse In The Workplace
Harassment For Men
Harassment For Women
Gender Discrimination At Work
Obscene Or Offensive Gestures
Unwelcome Touching Or Grabbing
Requests For Sexual Favors
Same-Sex Sexual Harassment
Who Is Protected From Sexual Harassment?
Laws protect both male and female employees, applicants for employment, and independent contractors. It applies to all employees of any employer.
An Employer’s Duty Under Sexual Harassment Laws.
An employer must take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.
If harassment has occurred, the employer has a duty to take measures to not only change the harasser’s behavior, but to prevent potential harassers from unlawful conduct.
The Requirement of Bringing an Administrative Claim.
Before pursuing a civil suit a plaintiff must first exhaust his or her administrative remedies by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is important that the complaint specifically identify the discrimination and the perpetrators of the discrimination.
Retaliation is Prohibited.
It is an unlawful employment practice to retaliate against anyone who has opposed practices, sexual harassment or discrimination, or has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding . Thus, employees are protected from retaliation if they complain about harassment or discrimination.
Responsibility of an Employer for Sexual Harassment by a Co-Worker.
The employer is liable for harassment by a co-worker, customer or independent contractor only if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
Thus, in cases in which sexual harassment is perpetrated by a co-worker, it is essential that the employee proves that the employer knew that the perpetrator had harassed the plaintiff or other employees before the acts complained of by the plaintiff and took inadequate steps to prevent it or, in the alternative, the employer should have known of the prior harassing behavior.
Severe and Pervasive Standard.
To prevail in a sexual harassment claim, the plaintiff must prove that the sexual harassment was severe or pervasive enough to alter working conditions and to create an abusive environment. A plaintiff must show that a reasonable person would have considered the conduct severe or pervasive. In addition, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she found the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to interfere with the work environment.
Whether or not conduct is severe or pervasive must be determined from the totality of the circumstances. Such circumstances include:
*the frequency of the conduct;
*the severity of the conduct;
*whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating or was a mere offensive utterance;
*whether the conduct reasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s work performance, although the plaintiff
need not show that she or he could not perform the job.
When the Harassment Is Not Directed at the Plaintiff Personally.
If sexual harassment permeates the plaintiff’s work environment, she or he may have a claim even if the harassing conduct is not directed at the plaintiff personally, but occurs in the plaintiff’s presence.
What Damages are Recoverable in Sexual Harassment Cases?
If an employee sues under Federal law, he or she is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical and psychiatric expenses, past and future wage loss, damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.
To recover punitive damages, i.e., damages to punish the defendant employer, a plaintiff must prove: That the employer hired or retained the harassing individual with knowledge of his or her unfitness for the position and in conscious disregard of others’ rights for safety;authorized or ratified the wrongful conduct; or was personally guilty of oppression, fraud or malice.
Sexual Molestation: $800,000 recovery in June 2014 for a woman who was molested by another patient at a Chicago area hospital. Attorney Dean Caras was able to prove that the hospital did not provide adequate security, nor did they comply with their own guidelines regarding patient interaction.
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- ABC News – Sexual Abuse Rife in Psychiatric Hospitals
- Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t