The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Sexual Harassment / Workplace Harassment in Chicago

There are many forms of illegal harassment in the workplace, but sexual harassment is one of the most widely discussed issues in employment law. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Both state and federal laws protect workers from sexual harassment.

If you need advice on an employment law issue, including a harassment case, you should speak with a Chicago employment lawyer.

Recently in Sexual Harassment / Workplace Harassment Category

Finger-Lickin' Good Results For Harassed KFC-Taco Bell Workers

A local fast food franchise settled a class-action sexual harassment case late last month, ending years of alleged harassment, legal battles with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and of course, terrible jokes. According to the EEOC, they reached a settlement agreement with Mendota Restaurants, Inc., of Mendota, Ill.

The company runs a franchised Taco Bell/KFC on Route 34. They also allegedly enabled over a year's worth of sexual harassment that included multiple sexual assaults. At least five of the women complained to the local police before this lawsuit was filed on behalf of twelve victims. The store manager at fault reportedly also stooped to retaliation by discharging or constructively discharging those who complained.

Ho Ho No!?! Workplace Holiday Parties Without the Lawsuits

Ho Ho Ho? Stop with the holiday cheer! There will be no St. Nick here, mister! This isn't the Grinch talking, but a lawyer, worried about your exposure to lawsuits. Sure, company parties can be a lot of fun, but they can also put you at risk for sexual harassment, wage and overtime, and discrimination lawsuits.

If you feel that employee morale is best served by having a holiday party, and you're willing to assume the risks associated with holiday parties, here are a few tips to minimize exposure:

Supreme Court: Who Is a Supervisor for Harassment Liability?

When it comes to harassment in the workplace, the rule is generally that if a supervisor is the harasser, the employer is liable. If a fellow employee is the harasser, the employer is only liable if they were negligent in allowing the conduct to occur.

The question is, what defines a supervisor?

It may seem like an easy question. Their duties are managerial. They are "in charge." But what if they have no power to hire, fire, or make employment decisions, other than overseeing their coworker's duties?

Forest Pharm Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Expands to IL

The $100 million lawsuit started with the claims of four Pennsylvania women. Each claimed that they were paid less than their male counterparts. Some claimed that discrimination occurred after having a child or taking maternity leave. One claimed good old fashioned sexual harassment. The claims of these four women, filed in July, were joined on Monday by the claims of women in California, Kentucky, and of course, Illinois, reports

Though we don't have specifics on the new allegations, we have plenty of information on the original lawsuit, thanks to Pharmalot. One of the original plaintiffs received a lower evaluation and pay increase than previous years after she took maternity leave. Another was denied a promotion while she was pregnant and also received a lower pay raise than previous years after the pregnancy.

South Loop Club Sued Over Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Claims

A popular South Loop bar, the South Loop Club, is set to square off against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over claims that it fostered a culture that enabled the sexual harassment of female employees by owners and management. If the employees complained about their supervisors' behavior, they were allegedly terminated or forced to quit. Others quit after their complaints failed to remedy hostile work conditions.

A hostile work environment in a sexual harassment context isn't simply a boss who dislikes you. Instead, there must be severe and pervasive conduct that a reasonable employee would find intimidating. The harassment must rise to a level that interferes with your ability to work.

Examples of inappropriate conduct include:

EEOC Focusing More on Muslim, Sikh Workplace Discrimination

It should come as no surprise to anyone that since 9/11, the misplaced anger and hatred of many Americans has been directed at those perceived to be Muslims. This has been especially true in the area of workplace discrimination, where the number of complaints filed since that tragic day has increased greatly. Those caught up in the misplaced hatred are not just Muslims either. Sikhs and other South Asian workers have experienced a similar increase.

According to the EEOC, in the initial months after 9/11, there was a 250% increase in religion-based discrimination cases involving Muslims. In the six months after 9/11, there were 1,040 charges filed with the EEOC involving those perceived to be Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian. Recent cases filed with the EEOC have involved the use of terms such as "camel eater," "Saddam Hussein," and "terrorist."

EEOC Claims Leona's Pizza Breached Sexual Harassment Settlement

Most cases settle. More than 90 percent of criminal cases reach plea bargains in most states. Parties in civil cases calculate the risk of loss and additional legal fees from trial and settle the vast majority of the time. When the EEOC investigates claims, businesses usually quickly agree to change their policies immediately in order to avoid the legal expense and publicity.

"Legendary" Leona's Pizza agreed in July to do just that after allegations of sexual harassment against female employees in one of their locations were investigated by the EEOC. As part of the agreement, Leona's was supposed to fork over $75,000 to the victims, train its employees, revise its non-discrimination policy, post a notice of the settlement, and report its compliance to the EEOC.

EEOC Settles Disturbing Race Discrimination Case Against WRS Compass

WRS Environment and Infrastructure Inc. (also known as WRS Compass) will settle a racial discrimination case brought by the EEOC for $2.75 million, according to an EEOC press release. In addition to the financial settlement, WRC Compass signed a three-year agreement to allow the EEOC to monitor its progress in curing the conditions that enabled the harassment.

Ordinarily, when you hear about a racial discrimination case, it's a matter of subtext and bias leading to lesser pay or negative employment decisions.

Most employers are subtle. WRC Compass' Lake Calumet site was not.

Man Called 'Transylvanian Whore,' Sexually Harassed by Boss

This, my friends, is a sexual harassment case that really demonstrates "the line." Clifford Harris once worked for a company called Electro-Motive Diesel in Northern Illinois. They manufacture trains. According to the Courthouse News Service, he was employed by Electro for four years until he was fired, allegedly due his sexual harassment complaint.

The conduct began back in 2010. On February 20 of that year, Harris discovered that unidentified vandals had targeted his locker. In addition to hanging a liquid-filled condom in the locker, they also inscribed the following taunts in yellow paint:

Sexual Harassment: Defining a Hostile Work Environment

One of the biggest burdens to victory in a sexual harassment case comes when the plaintiff is alleging a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment isn’t where your boss simply dislikes you. That’s just a matter of their poor taste in company.

A hostile work environment in a sexual harassment case involves more than a bully boss. Instead, there must be severe and pervasive conduct that a reasonable employee would find intimidating. In short, the hostility must rise to a level that it interferes with your work.