Illinois workers have the right to a harassment-free workplace. Being able to recognize illegal harassment is an essential step toward protecting your rights in this area. Before you take legal action, your employer has a chance to address the harassing conduct and make things right. If that does not happen, or if these efforts make the situation worse, legal action is usually an option.
At the Law Office of Mitchell Kline, we are a small business, just like your employer. So, we understand that you simply want to do your job without being afraid. Therefore, we look for long-lasting, cost effective solutions in this area. Our goal is to protect your rights while we make a business a better place to work for everyone.
What Constitutes Harassment?
Harassment is illegal if it is directed at someone in a protected class, such as gender, race, national origin, or religion. Pretty much every worker in Chicagoland is in at least one protected class.
Not all harassment is illegal. Things reach a tipping point if enduring the harassment essentially becomes a job qualification, a reasonable person would consider the behavior hostile, abusive, or intimidating, or the harassing party receives an employment benefit, like a promotion or a raise.
Sometimes, the definition is broader. For example, Illinois law gives some protection to people with criminal records. Some courts have also broadened the types of harassment. In some cases, “fat jokes” run afoul of disability discrimination laws.
According to the EEOC, unlawful behavior has to meet a certain threshold. It will likely not include mere annoyances, or isolated comments. A hostile workplace is one that is intimidating or offensive in general, or most of the time. This harassment usually occurs in one of the following situations:
- Sexual: Employers cannot tolerate environments that are sexually harassing. Common examples include suggestive computer wallpaper at certain workstations and managers who fail to address mild sexual harassment.
- Emotional: Workplace bullying is quite common in Illinois. This behavior is even more prevalent among people who work from home. People who work remotely often let their guard down. Additionally, the normal constraints of in-person professionalism are gone.
- Physical: Assaults and threatening behavior are usually the last step in this process. Many sexual and emotional bullies resort to violence when other tactics do not result in the desired power advantage. Fundamentally, all harassment is really about power.
Employment harassment is not limited to office hours. It is also not limited to the employment relationship itself. Some job interview environments are harassing. Illegal interview questions are the classic example. Harassment could also continue after a worker leaves. Examples include cyberbullying and career sabotage. Bosses have a duty to protect these people, whether or not they are technically employees.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer
Employees do not have to tolerate workplace harassment. Reach out to an experienced Chicago employment lawyer to schedule your free consultation. Contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline today.