Legal Protections

The Illinois Department of Human Rights enforces the protections of the Illinois Human Rights Act. State agencies, municipalities and employers who are public contractors and bidders are required to have a written policy which prohibits sexual harassment. The policy should include the legal definition of sexual harassment, a description of sexual harassment (including examples), internal procedures for investigating complaints, and any penalties for violating the policy.

What to do if you are sexually harassed…

  • Object.  Let the harasser know right away that you are offended by this conduct and want it to stop. Inappropriate behavior may escalate, so it’s important to speak out.
  • Document.  Write down what happened to you, when it happened, who was there and what was said by all the parties involved.  Keep records of subtle or overt job or educational related promises or threats.
  • Identify witnesses.  Speak with peers whom you trust. Often, the person harassing you may be bothering others as well. Witnesses may be willing to speak out on your behalf.
  • Notify Management.  It is a good idea to report the incident to your supervisor or academic advisor. If the supervisor or academic advisor is the harasser, see his or her supervisor, and also report the incident to the affirmative action officer and/or human resources.
  • Call Police.  If the sexual harassment conduct is criminal in nature, report the incident to law enforcement authorities immediately.
  • Report the incident to governmental authorities. For more information visit the section entitled “Reporting” below.

What you should know…

  • Persons of any gender can be victims of sexual harassment.
  • Harassers can be any gender, and can harass people with the same or different sexual orientation or gender identity as theirs.
  • Sexual harassment in the work place can be perpetrated by a supervisor, coworker, or someone at the workplace at the invitation of the employer, such as a vendor or contractor.
  • Sexual harassment in educational institutions can be perpetrated by any representative of the institution, such as an executive, faculty or administrative staff member, or teaching assistant.
  • Sexual harassment is not limited to any level of employment or education. 

Charges of sexual harassment can be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against the individual harasser as well as the employer or educational institution.  Both parties can be found liable.

Notice to Employees

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, all workers have the right to employment free from sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination. In Illinois, it is a civil rights violation under the Act for an employer to fail to include in a posting on the premises, AND in an employee handbook, information concerning the rights of employees to:

  1. Be free from unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace;

  2. File a charge of discrimination or sexual harassment; and

  3. Obtain certain reasonable accommodations such as those based on pregnancy and disability.

The required Notice to Employees poster is available for download from the Illinois Department of Human Rights’ website.

Everyone has a right to be free from unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and is protected from retaliation for reporting incidents of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or helping others exercise their rights.

More information about legal protections and filing a charge of discrimination is found on IDHR’s website.