All too often sexual harassment accusations turn into “he said/she said” exchanges with the truth somewhere in the middle—maybe. Illinois resident Sharon Bialek, recently went public accusing GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment in 1997. He disavows any knowledge of the alleged harassment and is swearing that his hands are clean. Bialek has her reasons for making the accusations public 14 years after the alleged incident of course, but you should be aware that in Illinois a charge of sexual harassment must be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights within 180 days of the date you believe the harassment took place, even if you are using union or internal grievance procedures to solve the problem.
The Illinois Human Rights Act protects Illinois employees and higher education students from sexual harassment. The act defines sexual harassment:
IN EMPLOYMENT: any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when 1) submission to such conduct is either overtly expressed or subtly suggested, 2) submission or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions or 3) such conduct interferes with the employee’s job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
IN HIGHER EDUCATION: any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors made by an executive, administrative staff or faculty member to a student, or any conduct of a sexual nature that substantially interferes with the student’s educational performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment.
If you believe you are being sexually harassed, the Illinois Department of Human Rights offers the following tips:
- Let the harasser know that you are offended by the conduct and want it to stop.
- If another incident occurs, again let the person know politely and firmly that you are not interested.
- Write down what happened to you, when it happened, who was there and what was said by all the parties involved. Note any subtle or overt job or educational related promises or threats.
- While you may want to talk with other people in the department whom you trust, be careful about spreading rumors, lying or exaggerating what happened. Talk to your supervisor or human resources representative. If the supervisor is the sexual harasser, see his or her supervisor, and talk with human resources or the appropriate representatives.
Filing a charge
A charge of sexual harassment must be filed with the Department within 180 days of the date you believe the harassment took place
Illinois Department of Human Rights
In Chicago Area:
100 West Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601
(217) 785-5125 TTY