Understanding Sexual Harassment as an Employer and Employee
Illinois implemented a new law requiring mandatory sexual harassment training to create a safe work environment for employers, employees, and customers. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the employer to create a safe and comfortable work environment through preventative and educational training and instruction.
There are many misconstrued ideas and definitions of what sexual harassment is and how it should be handled. Pamela Kramer, BA, LPhT, and Executive Vice President of Forum Extended Care Services, provides details about what unlawful sexual harassment is in Illinois and how employers can prevent harassment in the work environment.
Take a look at these key points to understand sexual harassment in the workplace:
What is Sexual Harassment
Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual conduct or advances can be done implicitly or explicitly when:
- Submission is made a term of employment
- Submission or rejection is used to determine employment decisions such as promotions or demotions
- It interferes with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment
It is important to understand that sexual harassment can be an exchange between the harasser and the harassed and any witnesses that feel offended or uncomfortable with the conduct or language used. The bottom line is that when someone is experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment behavior and requesting it to stop, it must stop.
Acting Against Sexual Harassment
An individual that has experienced, witnessed, or become aware of unwelcome sexual conduct can and should report the sexual harassment. When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, it is not limited to one physical location. Harassment can take place off-site, through mobile devices, and during after-hours events or celebrations.
Regardless of where the behavior occurred, if the unwelcomed conduct is not discontinued upon request, it violates the law, and reporting options are available. Individuals who choose to report sexual harassment are protected from retaliation by the law. Sexual harassment can be reported to:
- A supervisor or manager
- Human Resources or a designated Sexual Harassment Reporting Officer
- Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Hotline
- Illinois Department of Human Rights
Employer Responsibilities and Prevention Strategies
Employers are responsible for sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace. Employers can help prevent sexual harassment by regularly reviewing, implementing, and communicating their sexual harassment policy. Training on sexual harassment for all employees and clear instructions on reporting sexual harassment can prevent unwelcome conduct in the work environment.
For more information about sexual harassment in the workplace and how to implement preventative strategies, check out the May webinar.