Sexual Harassment: When You Should Talk to a Lawyer

If you are experiencing sexual harassment, you are not alone. 43% of men and 81% of women report experiencing sexual harassment throughout their lifetime. Sadly, many of these incidents occur in the workplace. Depending on your situation it may be time to contact a Chicago Sexual Harassment Lawyer.

The Illinois Human Rights Act specifically protects workers from sexual harassment. This act describes types of illegal sexual harassment. It also outlines the civil actions victims can take against perpetrators.

But the law can be difficult to understand. With all the stress you are likely experiencing already, you may wonder: when is it time to seek advice from a sexual harassment attorney?

In this guide, we will discuss the ins and outs of sexual harassment cases in Illinois. Keep reading to learn when you should call a lawyer, at what point you should file a lawsuit, and more.

What Is Sexual Harassment in Illinois?

According to the Illinois Human Rights Act, sexual harassment in the workplace includes any sexual advances the victim considers unwelcome. Illinois law distinguishes between two types of workplace sexual harassment.

Image of a woman in the chicago workplace feeling uncomfortable due to sexual harassment.

First, there is Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment, where a manager requests sexual favors in exchange for job perks (i.e., promotions, raises, bonuses, or any other kind of opportunity).

Secondly, there is Hostile Work Environment sexual harassment, where the unwanted behaviors are severe and pervasive.

Specific instances of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct include but are not limited to:

  • Unwanted physical touch
  • Unwanted compliments, including in non-verbal communications (i.e., emails)
  • Lewd (i.e., vulgar, crude, or obscene) language, including in non-verbal communications
  • Conversations about sex
  • Comments and/or questions about someone’s sex life
  • Sexist language
  • Sexual assault

The Human Rights Act specifies that sexual harassment can be either verbal or non-verbal in nature.

The perpetrator does not have to intend to harass. Instead, the law only requires that both the individual targeted by the harassment, and  “reasonable person” would consider the offensive behavior sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Evidence

Unfortunately, the burden of proof in a sexual harassment case is on the victim. With the help of your lawyer, you must come up with evidence to back your case.

Evidence in a sexual harassment case must be sufficient enough to prove either of the following situations:

  • Your employer conditioned a benefit of your employment on your engagement with his or her sexual advances

Or all of the following:

  • The harassment was based on your gender/was sexual in nature; 
  • The harassment was so severe and pervasive it changed your working conditions–this inquiry will be based on your specific situation 
  • The harassment was unwelcome
  • The harasser was employed by your employer

Additionally, in some cases you will need to show that the employer was aware that the harassment was taking place, for example, if the harasser was a coworker you may need to show that you complained or informed the company that the harassment was occuring.  However, under Illinois law, if the harasser was a member of the management team or a supervisor, you won’t even need to show that the company was aware of the harassment to establish liability. 

How Can I Protect Myself from Workplace Sexual Harassment?

You still have to work while you are filing a sexual harassment claim against the perpetrator or your employer. What should you do to protect yourself in the meantime? Here are our four top tips.

Keep Documentation

It is critical to document every instance of sexual harassment you experience. This documentation will be integral to your claim and any sexual harassment lawsuit that may arise from it.

Other important things to document include but are not limited to the following:

  • Communications in which you asked the perpetrator to stop harassing you
  • Communications with coworkers, HR, or, especially, managers about the harassment
  • Records that you have spoken to an Employee Harassment Hotline about the event
  • Communications or treatments you received from your doctor in relation to the harassment
  • Communications from witnesses verifying the harassment incident or incidents
  • Any complaints, whether formal or informal, you have made at your workplace

If you fear retaliation after filing a sexual harassment claim, you should also hold onto performance documents. Any indication that your employer has illegally retaliated against you for your report can support your claim. 

Woman filing a sexual harassment claim with a Chicago lawyer.

File a Report

Even though it may feel scary, you should file a formal complaint regarding the harassment with your employer. It is illegal for your employer to ignore instances of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Illinois Human Rights Act requires employers to “take swift action” against perpetrators of sexual harassment. If they fail to, the Illinois Department of Human Rights can perform a workplace investigation to protect victims.

We recommend calling a sexual harassment attorney in Chicago to help you file the report.

Watch for Instances of Retaliation

It is illegal for Illinois employers to retaliate against an employee for filing a sexual harassment claim. This right extends to any other employees who support the victim of sexual harassment in their workplace.

We will talk more about how the law protects victims from retaliation after reporting workplace sexual harassment next.

What Protections Do Sexual Harassment Victims Have?

You have rights under Illinois law that protect you from sexual harassment, especially in the workplace.

For example, you have the right to work in a safe work environment. You have the right to report sexual harassment to your employer. And you have the right to do so without fear of repercussions.

In Illinois, it is illegal for an employer to fire you for filing a sexual harassment complaint. It is also illegal for an employer to practice other forms of retaliation, including reducing your hours and cutting your pay.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer Before Filing a Workplace Harassment Report?

It is a really good idea to schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer before you file a claim against your employer. He or she can advise you on the steps you can take to protect yourself from retaliation.

For example, your lawyer can advise you on how to deal with the person who is harassing you. You can learn how to protect yourself and why you should document all instances of sexual harassment as soon as they occur.

An attorney also knows the different local, state, and Federal organizations that you should report to as well. It is a requirement that harassment and discrimintion claims be made with certain agencies before you can receive a right to sue in court.  

Finally, your attorney can help you decide when and if you should file a civil lawsuit. He or she can advise you on whether you have enough evidence to sue and, if not, how to obtain the proof you need to solidify your case.

Can I Get Compensation for Sexual Harassment?

Yes, you can get compensated for sexual harassment in Illinois. There are three types of compensation you can receive: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.

Here is everything you need to know about each type of compensation.

Economic Damages in Sexual Harassment Cases

Economic damages compensate you for monetary losses you incurred due to the sexual harassment. The most common types of economic damages are for lost income, loss of earning capacity, and compensation for medical expenses.

For example, say your employer cut your pay in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment claim. You may be entitled to back pay for the wages you would have received if your employer had not retaliated against you.

Non-Economic Damages in Sexual Harassment Cases

Non-economic damages compensate you for non-monetary losses you incurred from the sexual harassment. By “non-monetary,” we mean mental pain and suffering, emotional anguish, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.

This type of compensation can be difficult to obtain. Most of these symptoms are mental or emotional in nature, making them extremely difficult to prove.

But with the help of an experienced sexual harassment lawyer, you can get the compensation you deserve.

Punitive Damages in Sexual Harassment Cases

Punitive damages are not technically compensation since they do not compensate the victim. Instead, judges order punitive damages specifically to punish the defendant.

For example, imagine that your employer fired you for filing a sexual harassment claim. The judge may assign him or her punitive damages to deter your employer from retaliating against sexual harassment claims in the future.

Need a Chicago Sexual Harassment Lawyer?

Sexual harassment is no joke in Chicago, Illinois. If you are preparing to file a claim in your workplace, consider consulting with a legal expert. An Chicago sexual harassment lawyer can help relieve the stress of this complex legal process.

Are you searching for ‘Illinois sexual harassment lawyers near me’? You have come to the right place. Contact us for a free consultation, and we will be there for you every step of the way.

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Lázaro Law Group
321 S. Plymouth Ct Suite 1250,
Chicago, IL 60604

Rafael E. Lazaro
Rated by Super Lawyers


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