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How Can I Prove Sexual Harassment in Chicago?

— September 7, 2022

People dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace can develop anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or even PTSD.

Chicago, IL – Sexual harassment is illegal in the United States under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on protected criteria such as sex, race, color, national origin, religion, etc. The City of Chicago also prohibits sex-based discrimination under the Human Rights Ordinance which covers workplaces of all sizes, whereas the federal law only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. Also, the ordinance makes it clear that a harasser can be of the same sex as well as of the opposite sex, and victims can be either male or female, although it is mostly women who are sexually abused.

The victim can file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Commission on Human Relations or can take their claim to federal level and complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you’re subjected to this type of sex-based discrimination, you should schedule a free consultation with an experienced Chicago sexual harassment lawyer.

How is sexual harassment defined under Chicago law?

The Chicago Human Rights Ordinance describes sexual harassment as any “unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature”. In order to prove harassment, your lawyers will have to show that:

  • submission to such conduct was made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual was used as the basis for any employment decision
  • such conduct substantially interfered with an individual’s work performance or created an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

The first two conditions are generally used to describe a quid pro quo situation, when an employee is being harassed by a supervisor or manager. If your supervisor or manager is asking you for sexual favors in return for a promotion or pay raise, or under the threat of demotion or termination, you have a quid pro quo case and you are entitled to file a sexual harassment complaint.

The term hostile work environment is used to describe those situations when you are harassed by one or more of your coworkers. Examples of harassing behavior include 

  • Verbal abuse: Repeated, unwelcome sexually suggestive comments, jokes, gestures, e-mails, etc
  • Physical abuse: Unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature
  • Visual abuse: Displays of sexually-suggestive pictures, posters, cartoons around the office, or sending pornographic materials via text messages. 

The employer may be held accountable for the harassing conduct of supervisors and other persons employed in a managerial position.

Pornhub logo under a magnifying glass. Image via Flickr/user:Marco Verch Professional Photography. (CCA-BY-2.0). (

In a case of a hostile work environment, the employer may be liable for damages if they were aware of the problem but failed to take appropriate measures. 

What kind of damages can you get for a sexual harassment complaint?

Unlike direct sexual abuse, such as rape, sexual harassment does not leave victims with physical injuries, but the emotional toll is often enormous. People dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace can develop anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or even PTSD. In many cases, victims may struggle with substance abuse. When you file a complaint and it reaches the negotiation stage, your lawyers will help you put a price on your suffering. If you were forced to quit your job or were fired, you can claim lost wages and ask to be reinstated if you wish so. Also, you can claim non-economic damages for your emotional suffering. The compensation will also include attorney fees, so you don’t need to worry whether you can afford a lawyer. Anyway, in most cases, sexual harassment lawyers work on a contingency fee basis so they don’t get paid until they win the case. 

The same applies if you have a child molestation case. Get in touch with an experienced Chicago child molestation lawyer and they will help you sue the organization responsible, which can be a school, a church, or a sports club your child attended.  

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