There have been numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct reported by the media against men in the entertainment and political arenas recently. Following the revelations, a lot of people have been asking how they can change the social climate to reduce the instances of sexual harassment in the workplace and other places.
Employers should take the opportunity to evaluate their current policies and see if the policies are effective at reducing or eliminating instances of sexual harassment, and encouraging employees who are harassed to report the harassment. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, no one should face sexual harassment in the workplace. This law applies to private employers who employ more than 15 employees. The sexual harassment protections afforded under Illinois law extend to employees as well as to unpaid interns.
Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature under three conditions or circumstances:
When the person making the unwelcome sexual advances, either implicitly or expressly, makes submission to the sexual advances or requests for sexual favors a condition of employment.
When accepting the unwelcome sexual advances is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting the person the advances are directed towards. The employment decisions do not have to be negative for it to be considered sexual harassment.
The unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. The employee here does not have to be the actual employee to whom these demands are made. An employee who hears the demands can be negatively affected and be exposed to a hostile work environment.
A person who complains about sexual harassment cannot legally be fired in retaliation. To do so would open a business to civil liability. In some cases, sexual harassment can turn into a criminal matter if it involves actions that can be prosecuted as criminal offenses under Illinois law—sexual assault, stalking, harassment, or battery.
Whether the victim of the sexual harassment reports it as a civil issue or a criminal offense, it could have negative consequences on a business that is seen as not having done enough to create a safe workplace.
Contact an Experienced Employment Law Attorney
Sexual harassment should be taken seriously by any business operating in Illinois. Having a well thought out and understandable sexual harassment policy can be a good first step to creating a safe work environment for all employees. For more information on what the law requires, or for a review of your existing sexual harassment policy, contact an experienced DuPage County employment law attorney at Momkus McCluskey Roberts, LLC for help today.