Employer Strictly Liable for Sexual Harassment by Supervisor - Ill Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme court has issued a ruling in a sexual harassment case involving harassment by a supervisory employee. The Court ruled that an employer is liable for its supervisor?s sexual harassment whether or not the supervisor is in the victim?s chain of command. The liability is also strict even where the supervisory employee has no power to affect the terms and conditions of the victim?s employment. As such, it does not matter whether the harassing supervisor or manager has the power to hire, fire, discipline, promote or demote employees. Under the ruling, sexual harassment by anyone employed in the position of supervisor or manager will result in direct liability for the employer under the Illinois Human Rights Act.

The Illinois Supreme Court reached this conclusion by relying on the plain language of the Illinois Human Rights Act statute. Under the statute, employers are liable whether or not they had knowledge of the harassment by the supervisory employee. It also does not matter what action the employer took to remedy the harassment. The court also concluded that Illinois law does not permit employers to assert the defenses that are available for such employers in federal court for cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

For sexual harassment committed by non supervisory or managerial employees on the other hand, employers are only liable if they fail to take appropriate remedial action or were otherwise negligent in discovering or responding to the sexual harassment. pdf [Read the entire Illinois Supreme Court ruling]

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