By: Eugene Hollander
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Republican Contender Cain Stirs Sexual Harassment Victims
While the Republican candidates for President debate each other, a more serious undertone has taken place regarding the upcoming presidential contest. A number of former employees of Herman Cain allege that they were sexually harassed by this Republican contender for the country’s highest office. Many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace feel that their once silent voice should be heard. What can they do? In Illinois, depending upon where the alleged acts of sexual harassment took place, there are a number of civil forums where a victim can pursue her claim. If the claim occurred in the City of Chicago, one may potentially bring such a claim in one of four venues: both the City and Cook County have administrative forums, the Illinois Department of Human Rights administers claim before the state, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reviews charges of discrimination on the federal level. The decision where to bring a claim is not an easy one, and should be done with counsel. Certain forums permit punitive damages, and others do not. Other determining factors are jurisdiction – to bring a sexual harassment claim before the EEOC, the employer must employ 15 or more people. Additionally, claims before the city, county, and state agencies generally take longer to resolve than those that proceed through the EEOC and ultimately, federal court. Last, depending when the harassment occurred may very well govern where and if a claimant can bring a claim at all. Generally, a sexual harassment victim must file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights within 180 days of the harassment; for the EEOC, such a claim must be filed within 300 days. Ironically, the number of charges of discrimination alleging sexual harassment has fallen over the past 13 years – in 1997, 15,889 charges were filed nationwide; in 2010, only 11,717 were filed.