Some acts constituting sexual harassment in the workplace are obvious and offensive, while others are less overt. In either case, both the Illinois Human Rights Act and federal law prohibit such conduct and employers can be liable if they do not take appropriate action. However, there is much more to a claim than determining whether or not the conduct is visible versus subtle. There are two distinct forms of sexual harassment that are unlawful, and they are very different. Talk to a knowledgeable Chicago sexual harassment attorney about your rights when faced either one of these two types of misconduct, and whether you have a claim for both.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
When a manager, supervisor, or person in an authority position requests sexual relations as a condition of receiving a work-related perk, the misconduct falls under quid pro quo harassment. Examples are requesting sexual activity in exchange for a job promotion, raise, or similar benefit. Note that the reverse situation may also be actionable. Therefore, you may have a claim for sexual harassment if you were threatened with termination if you do not consent to sexual relations as requested by a supervisor.
In addition, note that you do not have to be an employee to pursue a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim. If a person involving with hiring requests sexual activities as a condition to employment, job candidates also have rights.
To succeed on a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, it is necessary to show that the person engaging in the misconduct is a supervisor, manager, recruiter, or other person in charge of providing the stated benefits. Gender is not a factor.
Hostile Work Environment
This type of sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when comments, conduct, inappropriate touching, or similar acts create an intolerable atmosphere. A hostile work environment claim involves a broader set of circumstances that may give rise to a claim, because there are more potential offenders and targets. For instance:
- It is not necessary for the individual to be in an authority position as compared to the victim, so he or she could be a co-worker, lower level employee, worker in a separate department, or even a vendor or business partner of the employer.
- Words are not required for this type of harassment, as an inappropriate picture or gesture could be enough for a claim.
- There could be a hostile work environment where the claimant is not even the target of remarks, such as where an employee makes a comment about another worker in the presence of others.
Note that a claim based upon hostile work environment must involve threatening, intimidating, demeaning, or otherwise offensive behaviors that severely disrupt your work or productivity. Mere teasing or an isolated incident may not be enough to be actionable.
Schedule a Consultation with a Chicago Sexual Harassment Attorney
If you believe you were the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace after reviewing this information, please contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline to set up a case assessment. We can review your circumstances and provide more information on your legal options.