b2ap3_thumbnail_Untitled---2024-02-27T123550.854_20240227-183857_1.jpgIn modern workplaces, understanding the dynamics of sexual harassment and knowing how to effectively respond to these issues is crucial for maintaining a safe and respectful workspace. Sexual harassment affects many people across various industries, including both women and men. In some cases, inappropriate actions may not be recognized as sexual harassment, or they may be ignored or even encouraged by people in positions of authority. 

Because sexual harassment can be so harmful, it is essential for employees and employers to be well-informed about this issue so that they can respond appropriately. An experienced attorney can offer invaluable assistance to help address these concerns, respond to sexual harassment that has occurred, and ensure that an employee’s rights are protected.

Recognizing Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment encompasses a range of unwelcome behaviors of a sexual nature that can create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. It is important to recognize the signs of sexual harassment, which may include:

  • Unwanted sexual advances: Any physical, verbal, or non-verbal actions that are sexually oriented and unwelcome may constitute sexual harassment. 
  • Requests for sexual favors: These actions may include propositions or insinuations that job benefits are contingent upon sexual favors, or a person may state or imply that an employee will be punished or penalized if they do not comply with requests.
  • Sexually suggestive comments or jokes: Remarks about a person’s body, sexual prowess, or sexual orientation may be inappropriate, and they can create a hostile work environment.
  • Displaying sexually explicit material: Posters, screensavers, emails, images, or other materials that are inappropriate for the workplace may make employees feel uncomfortable.
  • Physical harassment: These actions may include unwanted touching, patting, pinching, or brushing against a person’s body.

Employees who have experienced any of these forms of sexual harassment or those who witness actions or overhear comments or conversations should request that the inappropriate behavior stop. Even if a person had explicitly or implicitly consented to this type of behavior in the past, they can withdraw consent at any time.

How to Respond to Workplace Sexual Harassment

If you find yourself the victim of sexual harassment at work, or if you have witnessed sexual harassment directed toward others, it is important to take prompt and decisive action. Here are some ways that you can effectively respond to sexual harassment:

  • Document the incidents: Keep a detailed record of what happened, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses. Documentation can be crucial in proving your case if there are disagreements about what happened, when sexual harassment occurred, or who was affected.
  • Report the behavior: Follow your employer’s procedures for reporting harassment and also be sure to make the formal complaint via e-mail.  This often involves notifying your supervisor or the human resources department. An official investigation and response can provide documentation of harassment that may be corroborated by personal logs or other evidence.
  • Seek support: You may want to consider discussing the situation with a trusted colleague, supervisor, or a support group. They can offer emotional support and advice on how to proceed.
  • Know your rights: Knowledge of federal and Illinois state laws regarding workplace sexual harassment can ensure that you understand what types of behavior are inappropriate, and what steps employers should take to address employee complaints. 
  • Consult with an attorney: If sexual harassment continues, if an employer does not take complaints seriously, or if one or more employees experience retaliation, an attorney who has experience addressing these issues can help you understand your options and ensure that your rights will be protected.

The Importance of a Workplace Free of Sexual Harassment

  • Employers should take proactive steps to prevent workplace sexual harassment, including:
  • Developing clear policies that define and strictly prohibit sexual harassment.
  • Training employees and management on recognizing and preventing sexual harassment.
  • Establishing straightforward and confidential reporting processes.
  • Taking immediate and appropriate action when complaints are made.

If you have experienced issues that have affected you personally or professionally after experiencing, witnessing, or reporting sexual harassment, you will need to understand your legal options. If you were wrongfully terminated or penalized because of reports of sexual harassment, or if you suffered harm because your employer failed to protect you against sexual harassment in the workplace, you may be able to take legal action against your employer. This may allow you to recover financial compensation for losses you experienced due to a wrongful termination or other penalties, as well as your emotional trauma and other ways you have been personally affected.

Contact a DuPage County Workplace Sexual Harassment Attorney

Dealing with workplace sexual harassment can be challenging, but you do not have to face this situation alone. At [[title]], our Wheaton sexual harassment lawyers can provide you with compassionate, knowledgeable legal guidance, helping you take the appropriate steps to end sexual harassment and address your financial losses or other issues that have affected your life and career. Contact us today at 630-665-7300 to set up a consultation and learn more about how we can help with your case.