Traliant Resources


Equal Employment Opportunity


Please review the information below and then return to the workplace harassment prevention course tab.  If you work in Chicago, please also review the information about the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance here. When you have completed your review, please return to the workplace harassment prevention course tab.

Harassment and discrimination based on a protected characteristic are prohibited under both federal and state law.  The federal government and most state governments have agencies that help employers and employees understand these legal requirements and ensure compliance with the laws.

Protected Characteristics

Harassment or discrimination based on any characteristic set forth below is prohibited in Illinois.


  • race 

  • color

  • national origin

  • sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity)

  • gender expression

  • disability

  • genetic information (including family medical history)

  • religion

  • age (40 and older)


  • age (40 or older)

  • ancestry

  • arrest record

  • citizenship status

  • color

  • expunged or sealed convictions

  • genetic information

  • marital status

  • military status

  • national origin

  • physical or mental disability

  • pregnancy

  • protective order status

  • religion

  • sex

  • sexual orientation (including gender-related identity)

  • unfavorable discharge from military service

  • work authorization status or term

  • race (including hair that is part of the cultural identification of an ethnic group or that is a physical characteristic of an ethnic group such as braids, locks, or twists)

Important Notes

In addition to the general protected characteristics listed above, some federal, state, and/or local laws also prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of other protected statuses in certain contexts, such as:

  • citizenship status or work authorization status,

  • emergency volunteer status,

  • family relationship with a co-worker, and/or

  • status based on information contained in criminal, background, or credit reports, or being subject to wage garnishments.


Likewise, some federal, state, and/or local laws prohibit discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation for exercising certain legal rights such as:

  • participating in collective bargaining or union activities,

  • serving as a whistleblower pursuant to whistleblower laws,

  • filing a worker’s compensation or unemployment claim,

  • taking protected time off or protected leave,

  • engaging in certain off-duty activities.

Finally, under federal law and some state and/or local laws, employers may not limit or prohibit employees from using any languages in the workplace unless there is a business necessity for the restriction.

Note also that some federal, state, and/or local laws provide additional, separate standards and remedies for certain prohibited conduct, such as laws addressing equal pay without regard to sex or other protected category or specifically addressing sexual harassment prevention measures.

Applicable Laws


The primary federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination include Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, The Age Discrimination in Employment ActThe Americans With Disabilities ActThe Equal Pay ActThe Uniformed Services and Employment and Reemployment ActThe Immigration and Nationality Act, and The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII protects individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (U.S. June 15, 2020).


The primary state law prohibiting employment discrimination, including harassment, is the Illinois Human Rights Act

Illinois Definition of Sexual Harassment

Employees in Illinois are protected from sexual harassment and other forms of workplace harassment under various laws, including Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Employees may also be protected under local laws.

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, the following definitions apply:

Harassment means “any unwelcome conduct on the basis of an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, order of protection status, disability, military status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, unfavorable discharge from military service, or citizenship status that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

Working environment is not limited to a physical location an employee is assigned to perform his or her duties. Illinois law prohibits workplace harassment of employees and non-employees, such as consultants or contractors.

Sexual harassment means “any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when

(1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment,

(2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or

(3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

Examples of harassment include:

  • pressuring another for sexual favors or to go out on a date

  • inappropriate touching, leaning over, or cornering another

  • sexual looks, gestures, or sounds (whistling) towards another

  • sending texts, emails, or other messages of a sexual nature

  • sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, questions, comments, or stories

  • referring to another as a “hunk,” “babe,” “honey,” or the like

  • asking another about sexual interests or history

  • sexual comments about another’s clothing, body, or looks

  • telling lies or spreading rumors about another’s sex life

  • cyberstalking

  • actual or attempted rape or sexual assault

Employer Responsibilities

Employers must take measures to prevent sexual harassment, investigate complaints or reports of harassment, and take corrective measures if harassment occurs.


Supervisory employees (supervisors and managers) should take the following measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Lead by Example. Supervisory employees must lead by example. They should model appropriate conduct and must refrain from engaging in conduct of a sexual nature.

  • Monitor the Work Environment. Supervisory employees need to be aware of the conduct within their supervision, so they should monitor their work environment to ensure the workplace is free of sexual harassment.

  • Conduct “Climate Check.” Supervisory employees should conduct a periodic sexual harassment climate check by discussing the topic at a staff meeting, in-service day, or as part of a structured communication such as a newsletter.

Employers need to take the following measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Policy. Develop, implement, and regularly communicate the employer’s sexual harassment prevention policy to employees.

  • Training. Provide training for employees –  both nonsupervisory and supervisory –  on how to prevent sexual harassment.

  • Complaint Procedure.  Ensure employees know how to report incidents of sexual harassment or other improper conduct.


When an employer receives a report or complaint of sexual harassment, it must respond and initiate an investigation.

The employer should promptly interview the reporting employee and taking reasonable action to protect the employee(s) from retaliation or experiencing further sexual harassment during the investigation.

The components of a timely, thorough, and impartial investigation will vary depending on the circumstances.  However, as a general matter, the employer will also need to interview relevant witnesses and the alleged harasser.  The employer needs to document the investigation results and maintain the file as an employment record.  Upon the conclusion of the investigation, corrective action may be required to prevent further incidents.

Corrective Action

Depending on the results of the investigation, the employer may need to take corrective measures.  Appropriate corrective measures may include the following:

  • Disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment where an employee has violated the employer’s policy.

  • Counseling, training, or closer supervision of an employee whose conduct did not rise to the level of sexual harassment or a policy violation but was still concerning.

  • Taking steps to reduce the likelihood of future incidents by updating policies and procedures, providing additional training, restructuring the work environment, or modifying reporting relationships.

  • Following up with the complainant and/or reporting employee at regular intervals to ensure no further incidents have occurred and that the workplace is free from sexual harassment.

Employer and Supervisor Liability for Harassment

Under Illinois law, employers are strictly liable for harassment committed by employer members of management.  The Illinois standard for liability for supervisory harassment is broader than the standard under federal law.

An employer is not liable for sexual harassment committed by a non-supervisory employee or nonemployee unless it knew or reasonably should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt corrective action.

Note also that supervisors and managers may be held individually liable for harassment or retaliation under Illinois law.

How to File a Complaint in Illinois

Call the Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Helpline.

If you or someone you know has experienced or witnessed unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace, you may call the State of Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Helpline for assistance. Calls are confidential and can be made anonymously.

  • Call 1-877-236-7703 

  • Visit the Helpline online  

Helpline representatives can help callers navigate their numerous reporting options and share additional information related to counseling, legal assistance, and frequently asked questions.

Employees may file formal complaints of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation with the agencies listed below. If you wish to pursue filing with these agencies, you should contact them directly to obtain further information about their processes and time limits.

Contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

An employment discrimination or harassment claim also may be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

To file a charge, call IDHR or visit them online: 1-800-662-3942 | www.ILLINOIS.GOV/DHR

You can also contact IDHR at one of their office locations:

Chicago.  Office: 312-814-6200 | 866-740-3953 (TTY), 100 W Randolph St, Suite 10-100, Chicago, IL 60601

Springfield.  Office: 217-785- 5100 | 866-740-3953 (TTY), 535 W. Jefferson, 1st Floor, Intake Unit, Springfield, IL 62702

Marion.  Office: 618-993-7463 | 217-740-3953 (TTY), 2309 W Main St, Marion, IL 62959

Sexual harassment claims under Illinois law may be filed at any time within 300 days of the alleged incident(s).

Contact the EEOC

An employment discrimination or harassment claim against an employer with at least 15 employees may be filed with the  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To file a charge, call the EEOC or visit them online:

1-800-669-6820 (TTY for Deaf/Hard of Hearing callers only)
1-844-234-5122 (ASL Video Phone for Deaf/Hard of Hearing callers only)

You can also contact the EEOC at one of their Illinois office locations:

Chicago District Office.  JCK Federal Building, 230 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60604

Springfield District Office.  Robert A. Young Federal Building, 1222 Spruce St., Rm. 8.100, St.
Louis, MO 63103

Sexual harassment claims under federal law may be filed any time within 300 days of the alleged incident(s).

Retaliation Prohibited

Employer retaliation against an employee who files a discrimination or harassment complaint or is involved in the complaint process is unlawful.

Remedies for Unlawful Harassment or Discrimination

A victim of workplace harassment or discrimination may be entitled to several remedies including, but not limited to, the following:

  • cease and desist orders

  • hiring, reinstatement, promotion, clearing of a personnel file

  • actual damages for the injury or loss suffered by the complainant (such as back pay, lost benefits, and/or front pay if reinstatement is not possible)

  • attorney fees and costs

  • other costs to make the complainant whole

  • punitive damages in case of intentional discrimination with malice or reckless indifference to the plaintiff’s legal rights

Course Outline

You may view and print a description of the information presented in the online harassment prevention training at this link.

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only.
It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.