The Third District Appellate Court answered “yes” to the certified question of whether the Illinois Gender Violence Act, 740 ILCS 82/5 et seq. (“Act”) applies to legal entities, such as a corporation. Gasic v. Marquette Management, Inc., 2019 IL App (3d) 170756.
The Act creates a cause of action against a person or persons that perpetrate gender-related violence, such as an assault or battery. The Act defines “perpetrating” as “either personally committing the gender-related violence of personally encouraging or assisting the act or acts of gender-related violence.” 740 ILCS 82/10.
When defining terms in a statute, the court was persuaded that a “person” could include a corporation, 2019 IL App (3d) 170756, par. 11, and was also swayed by U.S. Supreme Court precedent where corporations enjoyed certain constitutional rights. Id., par. 15.
What the court was not addressing was the merits of the lawsuit. There, the plaintiff only alleged that the defendant knew that one of its employees received numerous complaints from third parties concerning his sexually harassing behavior and failed to protect others. The case was thus remanded to the circuit court for further consideration. So it is possible that the defendant corporation could file a motion to dismiss and successfully argue that the allegations do not meet what is required under the Act.
The Act now provides another arrow for plaintiffs who are victims of gender violence to seek monetary damages, including the recovery of attorney’s fees. 740 ILCS 82/15. Causes of action under the Act have been alleged in sexual harassment cases in state and federal court. Aided by Gasic, courts will likely see more gender violence claims being filed against employers (or former employers) and appeals will likely result on what constitutes “perpetrating” under the Act. 740 ILCS 82/10.