Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

December 13, 2017

By Associate Attorney John Solan

Today is it hard to avoid the breaking news on people in the public sphere being involved with sexual harassment related allegations.  The increase of victims speaking out publically and support from social media campaigns has shined a light on issues that can arise in the work place.  While most of the focus in the news today is on sexual harassment, it is important for people to understand the full extent of protections available to employees that feel they have been harassed or discriminated against in their work place. 

For those in Illinois, protections to employees come from both federal and state laws. On the Federal level, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is charged with enforcing Federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination.  The most well known law is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.  This includes sexual harassment.  Additional Federal laws the EEOC enforces are the Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act among others.

On the State level, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) is charged with enforcing the Illinois Human Rights Act.  The Illinois Human Rights Act protects employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, military status, ancestry, age, among other protected classes. The Illinois Human Rights Act also provides protection outside the work place to include real estate transactions, public accommodations, and financial credit.

The EEOC and IDHR both act as an investigative body for potential violations under the laws each enforce.  In some circumstances, a complaint must filed with the EEOC or IDHR within 180 days from the day the discrimination occurred.  This deadline may differ depending on the nature of the complaint being filed.  While it is not a requirement to retain an attorney to file a complaint with the EEOC or the IDHR, it is a benefit for the person filing a complaint to have retained and discussed the filing of a complaint with an attorney.  An attorney can discuss all of your options with you as well as potential avenues for a potential claim.  In addition, if a complaint is not successfully resolved with the EEOC or the IDHR, there is a very short window in which a lawsuit is allowed to be filed in either state or federal court. "It is essential that employees are aware of their rights when facing workplace harassment or discrimination," said Joseph Coli, Partner at Illinois Advocates.  It is important to understand these strict deadlines and discuss them with your attorney so that you are well prepared to address the discrimination and for potential litigation.  

If you have questions about sexual harassment or discrimination at your workplace, call Illinois Advocates today.

Illinois Advocates
77 W. Washington St.
Suite 2120
Chicago, IL 60602

Phone: 312-818-6700
Fax: 312-492-4804