sexual harassment

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.

Jury Acquits Defendant of Eavesdropping

A Cook County jury acquitted a woman of illegally eavesdropping on two police officers on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.  The woman was charged with recording the officers with her Blackberry when she believed that the officers were trying to talk her out of pursuing a sexual harassment claim against a patrol officer.  Illinois law provides that is unlawful to record a conversation unless all parties to the conversation agree.  The penalty for recording a police officer is much more severe than recording a private citizen.  In federal employment discrimination cases, our office occasionally comes across the situation where the employee records his supervisor making discriminatory statements.  While the employee may be committing a crime under state law, generally, the tape is admissible in a federal employment discrimination case as federal law does not require both parties to consent to a taped conversation.  Thus, while the employee may be prosecuted under state law, he may be able to prevail in his employment case with the use of the evidence.

Jury Awards Woman $95 Million in Sexual Harassment Case

On June 9, 2011, a federal district court jury awarded a woman $95 million in a sexual harassment case against her former employer. In her lawsuit, the woman claimed that on October 12, 2006, she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor. According to evidence in the case, the supervisor began making inappropriate remarks to the 20 year old customer service representative, and then began pinching her. The sexual harassment escalated to groping her, and then on one occasion, coming up behind her and hitting her on the head with his penis. The woman testified that she made a complaint to a sexual harassment hotline, but an investigator never contacted her. The jury found that the supervisor assaulted and battered her, and that the employer failed to appropriately supervise him. The jury awarded the woman $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages. The employer vowed to appeal the jury's verdict.