False and frivolous charges refer to cases where the accuser is using a sexual harassment complaint to accomplish some end other than stopping sexual harassment. It does not refer to charges made in good faith, which cannot be proven. Given the seriousness of the consequences for the accused, a false and frivolous charge is a severe offense that can itself result in disciplinary action.
An employee who either observes or believes herself/himself to be the object of sexual harassment should deal with the incident(s) as directly and firmly as possible by clearly communicating her/his position to his or her supervisor. It is not necessary for sexual harassment to be directed at the person making a complaint.
The following steps may also be taken: document or record each incident (what was said or done, the date, the time, and the place). Documentation can be strengthened by written records such as letters, notes, memos, and telephone messages.
No one making a complaint will be retaliated against even if a complaint made in good faith is not substantiated. In addition, any witness will be protected from retaliation.
The process for making a complaint about sexual harassment falls into several stages.
(A) Direct Communication. If there is sexually harassing behavior in the workplace, the harassed employee should directly express her/his objection that the conduct is unwelcome and request that the offending behavior stop. The initial message may be verbal. If subsequent messages are needed, they should be put in writing in a note or memo.
(B)Contact with Director. At the same time direct communication is undertaken, or in the event the employee feels threatened or intimidated by the situation, the problem must be promptly reported to his or her immediate supervisor. If the harasser is the immediate supervisor, the problem should be reported to the next level above the supervisor.
(C)Resolution Outside Department. It is hoped that most sexual harassment complaints and incidents can be resolved from within the department. However, an employee has the right to contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about filing a formal complaint. An IDHR complaint must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged incident(s) unless it is a continuing offense. A complaint with the EEOC must be filed within three hundred (300) days.
An employee who is suddenly transferred to a lower paying job or passed over for promotion, after filing a complaint with IDHR or EEOC, may file a retaliation charge, also due within one hundred eighty (180) days (IDHR) or three hundred (300) days (EEOC) of the alleged retaliation.
An employee who has been physically harassed or threatened while on the job may also have grounds for criminal charges of assault and battery.
One such example is a case where a qualified individual is denied employment opportunities and benefits that are, instead, awarded to an individual who submits (voluntarily or under coercion) to sexual advances or sexual favors. Another example is where an individual must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct in order to receive an employment opportunity.
Other conduct commonly considered to be sexual harassment includes:
Verbal: Sexual innuendos, suggestive comments, insults, rumor and jokes about sex, anatomy or gender-specific traits, sexual propositions, threats, repeated requests for dates, or statements about other employees, even outside of their presence, of a sexual nature.
Non-Verbal: Suggestive or insulting sounds (whistling), leering, obscene gestures, sexually bodily gestures, “catcalls”, “smacking” or “kissing” noises.
Visual: Posters, signs, pin-up or slogans of a sexual nature.
Physical: Touching, unwelcome hugging or kissing, pinching, brushing the body, coerced sexual intercourse, or actual assault.
Sexual harassment most frequently involves a man harassing a woman. However, it can also involve a woman harassing a man or harassment between members of the same gender.
The most severe and overt forms of sexual harassment are easier to determine. On the other end of the spectrum, some sexual harassment is more subtle and depends to some extent on individual perception and interpretation. The trend in the Courts is to assess sexual harassment by a standard of what would offend a “reasonable woman” or a “reasonable man”, depending on the gender of the alleged victim.
An example of the most subtle form of sexual harassment is the use of endearments. The use of terms such as “honey”, “darling”, and “sweetheart”, is objectionable to many women who believe that these terms undermine their authority and their ability to deal with men on an equal and professional level.
Another example is the use of a compliment that could potentially be interpreted as sexual in nature. Below are three statements that might be made about the appearance of a woman in the workplace:
“That’s an attractive dress you have on.”
“That’s an attractive dress, it really looks good on you.”
“That’s an attractive dress. You really fill it out well.”
The first statement appears to be simply a compliment. The last is the most likely to be perceived as sexual harassment, depending on the individual perceptions and values. To avoid the possibility of offending an employee, it is best to follow a course of conduct above reproach, or to err on the side of caution.
Discriminatory harassment or mistreatment of others based on race, ethicality, region, sex, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, handicap, disability or other improper consideration is not acceptable and will be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action. Without limiting the scope of the policy, sexual harassment includes any unwanted sexual pinching, patting, verbal comments of a sexual nature, sexual name-calling, pressure to engage in sexual activity, repeated propositions, and unwanted body contact.