Despite earlier reports that the problem was getting better, workplace sexual harassment is still a serious problem. According to one survey, more than 80% of women say they have been sexually harassed while on the job. That includes both verbal harassment, like whistles and unwanted advances, as well as physical harassment, such as touching or even genital flashing.
Employers have a duty to provide harassment-free workplaces. If such incidents occur, as they almost inevitably do at one time or another, employers have a duty to take them seriously. They must conduct prompt yet thorough investigations, and mete out punishment as warranted. A breakdown in any area could lead to a civil claim.
Types of Sexual Harassment in Illinois
Perhaps one reason sexual harassment is so common is that it comes in many different forms. It is important to note that harassment is always defined from the victim’s perspective. So, even if the actor has no malicious intent, the conduct could still be sexual harassment. This conduct usually includes:
- Hostile Environment: Sporadic or one-time comments are usually not sufficient to support a sexual harassment claim. Instead, the behavior must be so bad that it makes it impossible for the victim to perform an essential job function. For example, there might be a very insensitive co-worker who either makes comments or has offensive computer wallpaper.
- Quid Pro Quo: Fewer sexual harassment claims are in this area. Typically, a supervisor conditions good treatment, such as a promotion, upon sexual favors. That could include a date.
Evidence is important in these cases. To avoid a “he said, she said” exchange, take pictures or speak with other employees who have had similar experiences.
The Investigation Process in Chicago
As mentioned above, there are basically three general rules in Chicago sexual harassment investigations. Employers must take all such allegations seriously. Even if the alleged victim has little or no supporting evidence, an investigation is usually warranted. Clever harassers are usually very good at covering their tracks. So, at this early stage, a lack of evidence is not at all uncommon.
Next, everyone must be treated the same. C-level executives are on the same level as lower-level shift supervisors. Furthermore, all parties must be treated with respect. Both sides are entitled to share their side of the story and present evidence as appropriate.
The investigation’s pace should shed light on these other two requirements. If a decision is made in a few weeks, the “investigation” was probably not much more than hearing the alleged abuser’s side of the story. If the affair drags on for months, the company may be hoping that the alleged victim will simply abandon the complaint.
Also, beware of retaliation. Sometimes, it can be quite subtle. Usually, a simple time relationship makes the connection between reporting the incident and a retaliatory action.
Rely on an Experienced Lawyer
In sexual harassment cases, process matters. For a free consultation with an experienced employment law attorney in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.