Student Interns and Sexual Harassment

We most often think about sexual harassment in the workplace and envision a corporate boss and his secretary as the typical scenario but we forget about students and interns. Temporary summer workers and student interns are also protected from sexual harassment in the workplace by the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when that conduct is made as a term or condition of employment or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for an employment decision or if the conduct interferes with someone’s work and/or creates a hostile or offensive work environment.

Employers can be held responsible for the conduct of supervisors and managers if they engage in sexual harassing conduct as well as non-supervisory or non-managerial staff if the employer was aware of the conduct but did not take reasonable action to correct the situation.

Chicago has its own ordinance, the Human Rights Ordinance, which has penalties for violations including fines paid to the City from $100 to $500, and damages and attorney fees, paid to the complaining party as well as injunctions ordering specific actions to eliminate discriminatory practices. If a company is found guilty of sexual harassment it can affect their City of Chicago business license as well as their contractor or vendor status.

If you feel that you have been sexually harassed you can file a complaint at the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. The Commission investigates each discrimination complaint giving the complainant and respondent an opportunity to present evidence to support their positions.