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Legal Blog

Sexual Harassment at Work Happy Hours and Parties

Published: Mar 31, 2017 in Sexual Harassment

As our professional and personal lives become intertwined at off-site conferences, holiday parties, and other company functions it is important to realize that just because you are physically outside of the office doesn’t mean your right to be free from harassment has been waived.

For workplace sexual harassment to occur, the conduct doesn’t necessarily need to take place within the walls of your office or place of employment. Your colleagues and supervisors must adhere to professional standards of conduct not just in the office, but in all interactions with you. Thus, you are legally protected from having to endure sexually-motivated comments and gestures at lunches, happy hours, and parties attended by your coworkers.

What Protections Does Illinois Law Offer Against Workplace Sexual Harassment?

According to the Illinois Human Rights Act, sexual harassment consists of any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct of a sexual nature when any of the followings apply:

  • Acceptance of the sexual conduct is made a condition of your employment, either implicitly or explicitly — “I’ll hire you if you send me a dirty picture”
  • Your acceptance or rejection of the sexual conduct or advances influences your boss’s decisions about your employment — “If you sit on my lap, I’ll give you a raise”
  • The sexual conduct creates a hostile work environment or interferes with your work performance — Coworkers making consistently crude remarks at happy hour make you unable to focus in the office the next day

As you can see, workplace sexual harassment covers a broad range of conduct that can occur within and outside of the workplace. If during a work retreat your boss tries to kiss you and says that “you’d better give in if you knew what’s best for you,” that’s sexual harassment. If your boss does nothing to address your colleagues’ habit of aggressively hitting on you at happy hour despite your protests, and you feel uncomfortable at work as a result, you may have a case for workplace sexual harassment.

Workplace Sexual Harassment is More Common Than You Would Think

Every year in Illinois, around 1,300 people complain to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about suffering sexual harassment at work. Yet most of these cases were dismissed for lack of evidence. If you make your complaint with the help of a skilled sexual harassment lawyer, your case will stand a better chance of success.

The actual number of sexual harassment cases in Illinois might be much higher because many people don’t report them or seek legal redress. Some workers falsely believe that they can lose their job for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. But as long as you in good faith believe you are a victim of sexual harassment, the law protects you from retaliation, such as losing your job or facing other negative employment consequences.

A 2008 survey of 500 employees working for 92 companies conducted by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) concluded that around 50% of respondents had encountered some form of sexual harassment while at work at some point in their lives. If you’re among these victims, you may be entitled to compensation. The Belleville sexual harassment lawyers of Cates Mahoney, LLC are experienced and have achieved significant results, including a landmark $95 million jury verdict.

Call us today at (618) 767-6293 or contact us online to receive a free and confidential case consultation.