Geise, Ill. On the issue of employer liability in a sexual harassment claim, we are bound by the language in the Act, not by decisions of the federal courts. The Sheriff's Department and the amici contend that, even if we accept the plain language of the statute as applying to all supervisory employees, this construction of the statute leads to bizarre and unjust results unintended by the legislature.
They suggest that large employers such as multilayered corporations and governmental entities would be strictly liable any time a low-level supervisor, regardless of ability to control the complainant's working environment, sexually harasses any employee in any location.
This argument carries little weight. First, our holding as to the strict liability of the employer does not obviate the necessity of establishing a prima facie case of sexual harassment. For "hostile environment" sexual harassment, the Act requires an employee to prove that the harasser engaged in "unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature," which "has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Second, it is not unfair to hold employers responsible for sexual harassment by supervisory employees. Partnership v. Comm'n Rep. Not only are supervisors the "public face" of the employer, but employers are in the best position to train supervisors and make them aware of the law prohibiting sexual harassment. The Sheriff's Department recognized that Yanor was acting on its behalf when Sheriff Williamson stated in his disciplinary memorandum to Yanor: "I cannot express enough my disappointment in you, especially representing me and this office in your capacity as a supervisor.
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Human Rights Comm'n, 88 Ill. A liberal reading of section D ensures that victims have full incentive to report harassment. Even where a supervisor does not have direct authority over the employee's working conditions, an employee may have a reasonable belief of retaliation if she reports the harassment. Supervisors are often better connected and have greater job security than the victims.
An employee may fear that the supervisor is more likely to be believed, thus putting the employee's job at risk. Based on the plain language of section D , and the public policy reasons supporting employer liability, we find that employers are strictly liable for the sexual harassment of an employee by a supervisory employee. The Sheriff's Department contends, alternatively, that Feleccia failed to meet her burden of establishing sexual harassment.
At the outset, the department argues that the Commission wrongly considered Yanor's acts that occurred prior to sending the forged letter. The day filing requirement is mandatory in order to vest the Commission with subject matter jurisdiction of the charge. Allen v. Lieberman, Ill. Department of Human Rights, Ill. A sexual harassment claim based on a hostile work environment generally is made up of a series of events rather than a single event.
Such a charge is timely as long as it is filed within days of any act that is part of the hostile work environment. Jenkins v. Passenger Corp. Morgan, U. Jenkins, Ill.
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We find that the Commission properly considered all of the charged conduct by Yanor because part of Feleccia's claim occurred within days of the date she filed her charge. Turning to the merits of Feleccia's sexual harassment claim, our review of the Commission's decision is limited to determining whether it was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Pinnacle, Ill. The Commission's finding that Yanor committed a variety of sexually harassing acts that cumulatively constituted a hostile work environment was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
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With regard to the forged Department of Public Health letter, the Commission found that Yanor's conduct promoted a sexual atmosphere at the Sheriff's Department generally and in Feleccia's work life particularly. It communicated a humiliating and false allegation of a sexual nature. See State of Illinois v.
The letter was prepared at the Sheriff's Department on its equipment, delivered through inter-office mail, and opened by Feleccia at the office. She and another employee stopped working in order to deal with the letter. Sheriff Williamson directed department resources toward the investigation and involved an independent law enforcement agency. The Sheriff's Department contends that Feleccia failed to show that Yanor's conduct substantially interfered with her work performance because both Feleccia and Hinsey testified that Feleccia continued to work throughout the alleged incidents with Yanor, and that her working conditions did not change even after she received the forged letter.
To the contrary, Feleccia testified that she missed work days and sleep because of the incident with the letter. The Sheriff's Department documented that Feleccia missed at least one week of work due to the incident. Moreover, the statute allows an employee to prove sexual harassment by showing either that the conduct substantially interfered with her work performance or that the conduct created "an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. The evidence of the forged letter, together with the other conduct proved by Feleccia, was sufficient to establish a hostile working environment under the Act.
In light of our decision that the Sheriff's Department is strictly liable for sexual harassment by its supervisory employee, we find it unnecessary to address Feleccia's remaining contention that the Sheriff's Department failed to take reasonable corrective measures after becoming aware of the sexual harassment. For the foregoing reasons, we find that the decision of the Commission is supported by the record and is not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
Accordingly, the judgment of the appellate court is reversed and the decision of the Commission is confirmed. I agree with the majority that the Commission properly considered acts by Yanor which occurred prior to sending the forged letter. I also support its conclusion that the Commission's finding regarding the existence of a hostile work environment was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Where I part company with my colleagues is on the question of whether the Sheriff's Department should be held vicariously liable for Yanor's misconduct.
Contrary to the majority, I believe that the appellate court was correct when it concluded that vicarious liability cannot be imposed here because, with respect to Feleccia, Yanor was merely a coemployee. The Sheriff's Department could therefore only be held liable for Yanor's harassment of Feleccia if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take reasonable corrective measures. Such was not the case. The evidence established that upon learning of Yanor's harassment of Feleccia, the Sheriff's Department launched an investigation into who wrote the fictitious Department of Public Health letter.
When it discovered that the author was Yanor, it suspended him for four days without pay and issued him a letter of reprimand. See Sangamon County Sheriff's Department v. In construing section D of the Illinois Human Rights Act to impose strict liability under the facts before us, the majority makes some entirely valid points as to why supervisory status should be defined broadly enough to include employees such as Yanor who have no actual authority to affect the terms and conditions of their victim's employment. The problem with the majority's analysis, in my view, is that it fails to acknowledge an important factor.
Sexual harassment of an employee by a supervisor triggers vicarious liability on the part of an employer not simply because the employer is assumed to have greater knowledge of and control over a supervisor's behavior, but also because such harassment is qualitatively worse than such harassment by nonsupervisory employees. The reason it is qualitatively worse is that harassment by supervisors involves an abuse of power. The potential for such abuse is not present when, as here, the parties involved have no authority over one another. When analyzing claims of discrimination under the Act, Illinois courts have looked to the standards applicable to analogous federal claims.
See Wanless v.
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Unlike the majority, I believe we should do so here as well. There is no indication that the General Assembly intended to make Illinois law more expansive than its federal counterpart. I note, moreover, that by adopting the construction it does, the majority not only goes beyond the principles governing sexual harassment claims under federal law, it imposes a standard of liability which appears to be without precedent in any jurisdiction of the United States.
Your Notes edit none. Retirement Bd. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission Rozsavolgyi v. Authorities 24 This opinion cites: Faragher v. Boca Raton, U. Village of Stickney, N. Please support our work with a donation. Supreme Court of Illinois. We do not include links to Supreme Court records. State Supreme Courts generally do not provide the kind of information which would be useful. If you don't find what you're looking for there, most of the individual counties also have their own system of searchable records.
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In some cases, particularly family law cases, it is important to know: if a case has been filed against you, if a case is "pending," or "ongoing" in another state, that is, a case has been filed and has not gone to judgment, if there is a past custody order or a current custody order in another state.