The Illegality of Sexual Harassment in Illinois

The Illegality of Sexual Harassment in Illinois

A recent article in the New York Times examined the prevalence of sexual harassment in restaurant kitchens. It discussed how sexism and harassment work to keep women from taking leadership roles within some of the most prominent restaurants in the country. The stereotype of the overly aggressive and abusive male chef has become so prominent that it is the source of hit television shows. According to the article, this cycle created an environment where even some young chefs find it acceptable to take their frustrations out on their female colleagues. The unacceptable actions reported by female chefs include snapping of the bra, slapping on the backside with tongs, and the grabbing of their private parts.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the restaurant industry is one of the largest sources for sexual harassment complaints. Yet most of these charges come from the kitchen and not the front of the house, the area where guests are served. The article explains that this difference often results from the competitive nature that exists inside of the kitchen, where male chefs seek to belittle and outshine female chefs. This is especially destructive for business because any commercial kitchen requires teamwork to function properly. This sometimes prevents women from reporting incidents of harassment. The report also examines the relatively low number of female chefs in relation to the number of women graduating culinary school each year.

Illinois Sexual Harassment Laws

The Illinois Human Rights Act governs sexual harassment claims within the state. It defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to such conduct is either expressed or suggested;
  • submission or rejection of the conduct by an employees is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting that employee; or
  • such conduct interferes with employee’s job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”

There are two recognized types of harassment:

  • Quid Pro Quo harassment. This occurs when the employer or a supervisor offers promotions or pay increases in exchange for sexual favors;
  • Hostile Work Environment. This offense can be perpetrated by any employee, not just the victim’s supervisor. It can include the sharing of unwelcome sexual materials or the creation of a work environment that is hostile to the point that the victim can not effectively perform his or her job. Unwanted touching or other types of unwelcome sexual contact fall into this category.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights administers and governs the law. It also receives complaints from aggrieved individuals. An employer’s actions may result in criminal charges if they include assault, stalking, or a threat of sexual misconduct.

To prove your sexual harassment case, you might have to present evidence to the court that you discussed the situation with friends and family. You may also provide documentation of your attempts to report the behavior to a supervisor to have it corrected. You may also submit documents and witness accounts that show how you experienced emotional distress or decreased job performance because of the harassment.

Work with a Chicago Sexual Harassment Attorney

If you feel that you experienced sexual harassment in your working environment, contact an experienced employment law attorney. Call the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline today to schedule a review of your claim with us.