How to Identify Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

How to Identify Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and under the Illinois Human Rights Act, and it can occur in any workplace. Even in workplaces that boast an emphasis on equality or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, sexual harassment can still occur. Employers can be liable for sexual harassment in the workplace if they engage in any type of quid pro quo harassment. They can also be held liable for failing to investigate allegations of sexual harassment or prevent sexual harassment. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment or participate in workplace investigations. 

How can you identify sexual harassment in the workplace in order to know if you have a claim under federal or state law? Consider the following tips from our Chicago sexual harassment attorneys.

Know What Forms Sexual Harassment Can Take

In order to identify sexual harassment in the workplace, it is critical to understand the different forms that sexual harassment can take. The two general forms of sexual harassment include “quid pro quo” harassment and “hostile work environment” harassment, although the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that “the line between the two is not always clear and the two forms of harassment often occur together.” Broadly, you can understand these two forms of sexual harassment as follows:

  • Quid pro quo harassment involves an employer or a supervisor seeking sexual favors from an employee either in exchange for a benefit (such as a promotion or a better schedule) or in order for the employee to avoid an adverse action (like a demotion, termination, or pay cut); and
  • Hostile work environment harassment involves conduct that would be “intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people” such that it makes the work environment hostile, according to the EEOC.

Within these forms, there are many different ways in which sexual harassment can occur. It is important to be clear that sexual harassment can include language or behavior of a sexual nature, but it can also include offensive language or behavior concerning a particular sex or concerning a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. To be clear, sexual harassment may be of a sexual or a sexually-explicit nature, but it may also involve harassment on the basis of a person’s sex, or a person’s perceived sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

You can also identify sexual harassment in the workplace by looking for common examples of how it appears in workplaces near you. To determine whether you can file a sexual harassment claim, have a sexual harassment lawyer assess your case. In the meantime, the following are examples of common forms of sexual harassment in workplaces in and around Chicago:

  • Touching a person in the workplace without consent, including routinely brushing up against the person in order to make physical contact;
  • Offering an employee a promotion if they submit to a request for sexual favors;
  • Threatening to terminate or demote an employee if they do not submit to a request for sexual favors;
  • Asking a person in the workplace to go out on a date repeatedly;
  • Making sexually explicit gestures;
  • Making jokes about a person’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity;
  • Telling stories about sexual experiences; or
  • Displaying sexually explicit images in the workplace.

Contact a Sexual Harassment Attorney in Chicago

If you need help identifying sexual harassment in the workplace, one of our Chicago sexual harassment attorneys can speak with you today. Contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline for assistance.