Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) and various local ordinances prohibit harassment of an employee or job applicant because of that person’s sex (“sexual harassment”). The harasser can be the victim’s co-worker, the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a customer or client. Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment. Some examples of sexual harassment include the following:
- You are touched in inappropriate ways, including hugging, kissing, patting, or intentionally being brushed up against in a deliberate way.
- You are asked questions or comments are made about your clothing, your body or your sex life.
- You are told sexual jokes that you find offensive, or are repeatedly subjected to sexually suggestive remarks even though you previously objected to these types of remarks.
- You are threatened with a promotion denial, demotion or termination if you refuse to accept a date or have physical contact.
- You are subjected to the display of posters, magazines, pictures or screensavers that are sexual in nature.
- You are subjected to the circulation of explicit or sexually suggestive e-mails.
The same laws that protect you from sexual harassment also protect you from retaliation for opposing sexual harassment or participating in an investigation of sexual harassment. As an employee, you have a legal right to complain about sexual harassment in the workplace. If you exercise your legal right to complain, it is illegal for your employer to “retaliate” against you by firing you, harassing you, stripping you of your responsibilities, refusing to give you deserved raises, issuing unwarranted discipline, etc.
Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 employees and the IHRA with respect to sexual harassment applies to employers with at least 1 employee.