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Illinois Employers Are Liable For Supervisor Conduct Toward Workers

When it comes to sexual harassment, Illinois employers are deemed responsible for a supervisor’s actions towards an employee.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that an employer is responsible for sexual harassment of an employee by a supervisor, even if that worker is not under his or her direct command. Or to put it another way, if a manager/supervisor makes advances toward any worker, not just one who works directly for them, it is still considered to be sexual harassment.

This is an important ruling and means that Illinois company owners must train their staff, including managers, on how to prevent sexual harassment in their workplace and how to avoid a hostile work environment as a result of the harassment. This ruling was handed down in Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department v. Illinois Human Rights Commission; a ruling that stated the employer is strictly liable for any manager’s or supervisor’s actions.

Part of this significant case involved a close look at the federal law in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which indicates that a person is not a supervisor unless they have direct authority over a victim’s employment status. The Illinois Human Rights Act does have this restriction, and their stated position is that employers are liable for the actions and conduct of every supervisor towards all employees in the company.

In Sangamon, a female records clerk filed a sexual harassment and retaliation complaint against the sheriff’s department. She stated a sergeant in the department, not her direct supervisor, was harassing her. In this case, the initial lawsuit was filed against the supervisor and the sheriff’s department.

The accused male harasser opted to settle out of court, thus dismissing him from the case, and leaving the department on the hook. The courts found the employer strictly liable for the man’s behavior even though she did not work directly under his authority. This ruling is important, as it, in effect, stretches out or expands the meaning of strict liability under Illinois law.

It should be mentioned that strict liability in this case means that the sheriff’s department was liable for the sexual harassment even if they did not know about it, and this applies whether the harassment was a hostile work environment or unwanted and unwelcome sexual come-ons. The court awarded the victim $23,000; $13,000 in court fees and $10,000 in damages.

Every case in this area of the law is different, and for this reason, if you have been in a similar situation in your workplace, call an experienced Chicago employment lawyer for advice and legal counsel. If you want to know what your rights are in situations like this one, or similar scenarios, the call you make to a Chicago employment lawyer will give you enough information to decide what you would like to do with your potential case.

Timothy Coffey is a <a href=””>Chicago employment lawyer</a> and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a <a href=””>Chicago employment attorney</a>, visit