Federal and Illinois law prohibits sex discrimination in employment. A sex discrimination claim can be based on the fact that a person did not get hired for a job, did not receive a promotion or a bonus, was paid a lower salary for the same kind of work, or was denied some other material employment opportunity because of their sex. Although women are usually the ones to file this type of a discrimination claim, men can similarly bring a reverse discrimination claim.
Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. Employers have a duty to take action to prevent workplace sexual harassment and remedy it when it occurs. Sexual harassment includes quid pro quo situations in which an employer offers an applicant a job in exchange for sexual favors or a supervisor requests sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, a raise or a bonus.
Sexual harassment can occur when a supervisor or coworker makes unwanted sexual advances or comments of a sexual nature to another employee. Such conduct can create a hostile work environment for the harassed employee and cause him or her to resign from their job. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Illinois Human Rights Act, employers can be held liable without proof of fault when a supervisor sexually harasses a subordinate. With respect to sexual harassment among coworkers, the employer may be able to defeat a sexual harassment claim if the harassed employee never reported the harassment to the employer before taking legal action or the employer took effective remedial action after receiving the employee’s complaint. Further, it is unlawful for the employer to retaliate against any employee for speaking out against workplace discrimination or harassment.
Employees who have been discriminated against because of their sex must file a charge of discrimination with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Illinois Human Rights Commission (IHRC) in Chicago or Springfield. The charge must be filed within 180 days from the day the employee became aware of the discriminatory act or experienced the sexual harassment. The EEOC or the IHRC will investigate the charge and decide whether to sue the employer on behalf of the employee. If the agencies decide to not take on the case, they will send a right to sue notice to the employee. The employee would then have 90 days from the date on the right to sue notice to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
There are some situations where Illinois law is more favorable to the employee than federal law. Consequently, an employee may be better off pursuing his or her discrimination claim through the IHRC and Illinois state court instead of through the EEOC and federal court. An experienced Chicago employment attorney can advise as to what is the best strategy for the employee.