Area of Law:
The Illinois Human Rights Division (IDHR) has a significant volume of free legal help available on its website, which provides tips and advice for how to recognize sexual harassment and file a complaint. Illinois defines sexual harassment as “unwanted, deliberate, or repeated sexual behavior,” which can include the use of objects, signs, magazines, or pictures. Illinois law indicates that sexual harassment or discrimination does not necessarily have to be overt; it can be subtle as well. The conditions of employment or higher education performance where instances of sexual harassment may occur include wages, promotions, references, work conditions or grades, and educational course work or scholarships.
The IDHR provides free legal support with a list of suggested steps to take if you feel that you have been a victim of sexual harassment. It first suggests that you inform the harasser that his or her conduct offends you, and you want it to stop. If the harassment continues, you should politely but firmly advise the harasser that you are not interested in his or her advances. Additionally, the IDHR list advises you to keep accurate and detailed records of who was present at the time of the harassing incident, exactly what was said, and when and where the harassment occurred. If these steps fail and you wish to file a formal complaint, you can call, write, or visit the IDHR office in Chicago or Springfield within 180 days from the date that the harassment occurred. The department will then provide you with legal aid by investigating your complaint. During the investigation, if substantial evidence is found that a violation did occur, the IDHR will file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (IHRC), who will then review the complaint and possibly conduct a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge who is authorized to make decisions and awards for damages.
The state of Illinois offers a “Filing a Charge of Discrimination” brochure which provides information to assist you with filing a discrimination or sexual harassment complaint. You can find the actual form for filing a complaint here. Additional legal services provided by IDHR include training on issues such as sexual harassment, enforcement of public contracts, and affirmative action regulations. The IDHR also offers educational workshops, events, and other programs.
The Illinois Bar Association provides an Illinois Lawyer Finder program to help people locate attorneys who offer legal services in the area of sexual harassment. With the Bar Association's lawyer referral service, the first half hour of a consult may cost only $25; after the first half hour, however, the attorney's customary fees are applied. Another listing of sexual harassment attorneys can be found here; just select either “discrimination” or “sexual harassment” in the practice area drop down menu.
For people who have low incomes or are over the age of 60, Prairie State Legal Services offers free legal assistance to deal with sexual harassment and other issues. The agency has several offices throughout the state.