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Recognize and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace

On Behalf of | Feb 29, 2024 | Employment Law For Employees |

Sexual harassment is a serious issue that can drastically impact your work environment. It can make you dread going to work, create anxiety and compel you to avoid certain areas where the perpetrator might be present. It is important to remember that you don’t have to endure such circumstances. There are worker-protected actions you can take to ensure your safety.

Defining sexual harassment by coworkers

Sexual harassment can manifest in many forms. It’s not always overt or physical. It can include inappropriate comments, jokes or gestures of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances or even requests for sexual favors.

These behaviors can be initiated by a superior, a peer or even a subordinate. Everyone has the right to work in a professional environment free from such behavior. If you feel unsafe due to these actions, you have the right to act swiftly and within legal parameters.

Your advocates at work

Illinois takes sexual harassment seriously and deems it unlawful under the Illinois Human Rights Act. This act covers both private and public employers and educational institutions. The Department of Human Rights (IDHR) investigates any claims of discrimination, including sexual harassment, and maintains confidentiality during the process.

If you face sexual harassment, your initial step should be to inform your Human Resources Department, manager or supervisor. Many employers have explicit policies in place to address and report such misconduct.

However, if your organization does not adequately address the situation, you may need to escalate the issue. In Illinois, the IDHR can assist you. The department has authority over sexual harassment complaints in various sectors, including employment.

Seeking further protection

Just like any other individual at work, you deserve respect. You must enforce your rights against sexual harassment. If you decide to escalate the matter to IDHR, consider seeking a legal professional to guide you in pursuing a claim against the harasser. You have the right to a safe, respectful work environment and can take legal action to ensure it.