Reporting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Reporting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

In this era of the #MeToo movement, increasing numbers of women and men are reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is legally defined as unwelcome acts of either a sexual nature or based upon an individual’s sex in the workplace. These acts must be severe (more than isolated incidents of teasing) or pervasive (less severe acts that occur frequently). In addition, any acts based upon sex that affect work conditions (such as shift changes, being fired, or being denied promotion) or that creates a hostile work environment in which is made to feel uncomfortable around certain people or in certain situations. These environments may cause a person to stop coming to work, to work less productively, or to avoid work-related activities with the perpetrator(s).

To protect yourself and ensure you have a case against your employer or coworker, document all incidents in writing with as much detail as possible. If there are witnesses to the incidents and feel comfortable doing so, ask them to also document what is occurring. This creates a paper-trail of evidence to help your case.

Speaking with your supervisor or human resources representative, if possible and comfortable, is another first step in documenting your case. Put your report in writing so they have concrete evidence to which they can refer as they move forward with your case.

If you do not feel comfortable speaking with a supervisor or human resources representative, you may go directly to a local or federal agency to report the harassment. The resources below outline your options in Illinois. All resources are confidential and some are anonymous, however most require contact information to investigate your allegations.

Please also talk with your therapist about your situation so they can provide additional support. Your perspective on the harassment is always valid, even if it does not rise to legal standards for prosecution.

How to Report

Equal Rights Advocates Advice and Counseling Line

The organization is based in California, however they offer resources for individuals nationwide. Call for free multi-lingual assistance in finding local legal counsel. All calls are confidential.

Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) (main page) (how to file an employment-related charge, including sexual harassment)

Chicago Office: Intake Unit
100 West Randolph Street, 10th Floor
Chicago, IL 60601
Tel: (312) 814-6200
TTY: (866) 740-3953
Fax: (312) 814-6251
Email:  [email protected]

877-236-7703 (Anonymous Illinois Sexual Harassment & Discrimination Hotline)

IDHR administers the Illinois Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination in the workplace and other areas, including sexual harassment. You must file a discrimination charge within 180 days* of the incident by calling, writing, or appearing in person at the Chicago or Springfield office. Charges can be filed against both the individual harasser and the employer. If you file a complaint with IDHR, it will automatically be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at the federal level as well. Calling the hotline is anonymous, however filing a complaint is not anonymous.

Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) –Multiple Locations
1-800-321-6742 (OSHA)

Chicago North Area Office (private, maritime, military, Indian sovereignty workplace, federal and USPS employees)
701 Lee Street – Suite 950
Des Plaines, Illinois 60016
(847) 803-4800


Chicago State Plan Office (public employees at state and local level)
160 N. LaSalle St., Suite C-1300
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 793-7308
(312) 793-2081 FAX

You must file a complaint within 30 days* of an employer’s violation of your worker’s rights. Complaints may be made in any language using an online form, fax or mail, or telephone. Whistleblowers are interviewed prior to investigation to verify evidence of a claim. Not anonymous.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Chicago District Office
500 West Madison Street, Suite 2000
Chicago, Illinois 60661 

EEOC enforces federal laws that protect employees from discrimination. This includes:
Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Harassment by managers, co-workers, or others in your workplace, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Denial of a reasonable workplace accommodation that you need because of your religious beliefs or disability.

Retaliation because you complained about job discrimination, or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

You must first submit an inquiry online or over the phone; this is followed by an interview. If your case is deemed valid, then you must file a Charge of Discrimination within 180 days of occurrence* before a case can move forward. Harassment that occurs outside the workplace but is related to the workplace (such as transportation between job locations or off-site work) may also be covered. Check EEOC’s website or call to ensure your complaint meets coverage requirements. If you are not covered, EEOC will direct you to other agencies that can help enforce local and state laws. Can be filed on behalf of another person to retain anonymity of original complainant.

*Note, all timelines provided are based off those for private-sector employees. Timelines and processes vary for federal employees so please verify with each agency. In general, early reporting is always more effective.