In Illinois, a hostile work environment is a form of unlawful harassment under state and federal law. While people often think of harassment in terms of sexual harassment, it may also occur based on race, national origin, religion, disability, or another protected characteristic. If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment in Chicago, Vaziri Law LLC can help.
Our practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of workers in Chicago and throughout Illinois. If the offensive conduct of a coworker or supervisor is preventing you from doing your job, we will help you fight back. When you meet with us, we will take the time to listen to your concerns, assess the merits of your claim, and explore all your options.
Though you may be reluctant to take legal action against your employer, you should not have to put up with a hostile work environment. We have comprehensive knowledge of the applicable anti-harassment and anti-retaliation laws and a track record of success in workplace harassment claims. Contact our employment law firm today to arrange a consultation.
What is a hostile work environment?
A hostile work environment is not merely unpleasant due to a rude boss or obnoxious coworkers, but rather one in which unwelcome comments or conduct by anyone in the workplace make it difficult or impossible for you to do your job. Notably, trivial annoyances or offhand remarks may not rise to the level of harassment; however, a single incident may be severe enough to create a hostile work environment.
Ultimately, a hostile work environment claim depends on the severity and pervasiveness of the offensive conduct. To have a valid claim, the conduct or comments must be (1) severe or pervasive enough to interfere with your job performance and (2) considered offensive by a reasonable person in the same circumstances. In addition, the harassing conduct must have been motivated by a legally protected status under federal and state law.
Federal Laws That Protect You Against a Hostile Work Environment in Chicago
Creating a hostile work environment is a violation of the following federal equal employment opportunity laws:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
These laws protect employees against harassment based on characteristics such as race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. However, Title VII and the ADA only cover employers with 15 or more employees, while the ADEA only applies to employers with 20 or more workers. Also, you must file a Charge (i.e. a workplace harassment complaint) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before you file a lawsuit. If the EEOC cannot resolve your claim through the mediation process, the agency will issue a right to sue letter.
How Illinois Law Protects You Against Workplace Harassment
Employees in Chicago have stronger protection against a hostile work environment under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), which applies to employers with 1 or more employees. The Act also prohibits harassment based on an employee’s actual or perceived protected characteristic, including:
- Sex (including sexual harassment)
- National origin
- Age (40 and over)
- Order of protection status
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Physical or mental disability
- Conviction record
- Military status
Examples of offensive comments or conduct that can create a hostile work environment include:
- Inappropriate jokes
The offensive conduct may involve the use of gestures, displays, or demonstrations that offend a particular racial or ethnic group, or disparaging comments about an employee’s skin color, ethnic characteristics, religious beliefs, national origin, age, mental or physical impairment. The offensive comments or conduct can be committed by supervisors or coworkers, contractors, or vendors. Like for claims under federal law, you must first file a Charge (i.e. a workplace harassment complaint) with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) before you file a lawsuit.
How Vaziri Law LLC Can Help
By working with our experienced workplace harassment lawyers, you can obtain justice and meaningful compensation.
We have extensive experience representing clients in administrative proceedings, as well as litigating workplace harassment claims in state and federal court. We will fight for damages such as:
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits (e.g. health and pension)
- Bonus payments
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Attorneys’ fees and court costs
If you were fired for complaining about a hostile work environment, the court may require your employer to reinstate you. Because this may not be feasible, the court may award you front pay to compensate you for the loss of future income. Finally, if your employer knew or reasonably should have known about the harassment and failed to take corrective action, you may be awarded punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish your employer for tolerating a hostile work environment and to discourage others from doing so.
How can I protect myself from this hostile environment?
If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, the first step is to warn the offender his/her conduct will not be tolerated. Next, document any incidents of alleged harassment, and then make a formal complaint to your employer through a supervisor or human resources. This will serve as important evidence that your employer was aware of the misconduct and support your hostile work environment claim. Then, the best way to protect your rights is to consult our experienced attorney.
Contact Vaziri Law LLC Today!
At Vaziri Law LLC, we believe that all employees have a right to a workplace free from all forms of harassment. If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, we will provide you with powerful representation and protect your employment rights. Contact us today so we can start working on your claim.