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Unwanted Touching in the Workplace

Unwelcome physical contact at work can create an unsafe and uncomfortable environment. Although this behavior is disconcertingly common, you shouldn’t have to endure it. The Mahoney Law Firm is dedicated to helping employees like you stand up to those who failed to take action to stop the incidents. Our team has extensive experience dealing with these cases and can help you determine the appropriate next steps.

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    Inappropriate touching at work is any physical contact that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It can be anything from unwelcome hugs or touches to groping or forced touching. If you’re dealing with inappropriate contact at work, addressing the issue is crucial to ensure it ceases immediately.

    You have the right to work in a harassment-free environment. If you’ve reported the issue to no avail, it may be time to seek help from an experienced employment lawyer. The Mahoney Law Firm in Illinois has been fighting for employees across the state for over 16 years to help people like you stand up for your rights.

    Legal Rights of Employees

    Employees have the right to work without being harassed by others, and various laws are designed to protect employees in the workplace. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, and national origin.

    At a state level, employees receive an extra layer of protection. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment, including inappropriate touching and discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity at work. Missouri’s Human Rights Act offers many of the same protections.

    While not all unwanted touching in the workplace is sexual harassment, many cases are sexual in nature. Illinois and federal law recognize two types of sexual harassment—hostile environment and quid pro quo.

    Hostile environment sexual harassment involves a severe or pervasive pattern of objectively discriminatory or harassing behavior. Under state and federal laws, this type of harassment must impede your work performance to make the environment hostile.

    Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves requests, implicit or explicit, from a supervisor for sexual favors as a condition for keeping the job or for an employment decision. Regardless of which type of sexual harassment you endured, the law is on your side. You may still have a case even if you did not explicitly say “no” or tell the offender to stop, as claims are valid as long as the behavior is unwanted.

    If you’re dealing with inappropriate touching at work, a skilled employment attorney can help. The Mahoney Law Firm has secured over $100 million in settlements for our clients and is prepared to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system.

    What Are Examples of Inappropriate Touching at Work?

    Unwanted touching in the workplace comes in many forms, including:

    Is Inappropriate Touching Considered Sexual Harassment?

    While not all forms of inappropriate contact are considered sexual harassment, many cases are sexual in nature. Any physical contact can be considered sexual harassment if it makes the recipient reasonably uncomfortable. The distinction depends on the intent and context.

    Sexual assault in the workplace has a narrower definition than sexual harassment, as it is restricted to physical contact, whereas sexual harassment can be verbal. Groping, molestation, and forced touching are examples of sexual assault.

    Prevention and Response Strategies

    In the workplace, touching, for the most part, has no place. Aside from a friendly handshake or a high-five in applicable scenarios, any touching is usually inappropriate. However, preventative measures are crucial to supporting a healthy, respectful workplace.

    Proper training and education are essential for an effective preventive measure strategy, as all employees must understand what is and isn’t considered harassment. Statistics show that a whopping 32 percent of employees didn’t realize jokes could be a form of sexual harassment.

    Outlining clear boundaries and expectations of what will not be tolerated, both for the company as a whole and you as the employee, is a critical step in preventing these occurrences altogether.

    If you are contending with unwanted touching at work, it’s essential to address the issue to ensure it stops immediately. Response strategies include:

    Reporting the incident to your higher-ups and the appropriate agencies may remedy the issue. However, if nothing comes of your efforts, it’s crucial to seek legal counsel, even if local agencies don’t think you have a harassment claim. A skilled lawyer can thoroughly evaluate your situation and review your legal options with you.

    Training and Education

    A proper understanding of unwanted touching at work is essential for prevention. This starts with adequate training and education to create a foundation for defining inappropriate touching and resolute intolerance of such incidences.

    Under Illionos’ Public Act 101-0221, formerly Senate Bill 75, employers must train employees on sexual harassment annually. Employers can develop their own training programs that meet or exceed requirements outlined in Section 2-109(B) of the Illinois Human Rights Act. However, they can also use the model training the Illinois Department of Human Rights provides.

    A thorough training program that creates a well-marked foundation for all employees can help prevent unintentional and intentional harassment by outlining clear repercussions that will result from such actions.

    An employer’s failure to implement training policies and procedures could result in liability for sexual harassment by employees.

    Contact the Mahoney Law Firm for Help Determining Your Legal Options

    Reporting unwanted touching at work protects you and future victims that may not have the courage to speak up. You should not have to tolerate unwelcome advances from coworkers. In bringing this behavior to light, you can protect your rights and hold the offender or your employer accountable.

    When dealing with these cases, it’s wise to consult an experienced lawyer who can represent you in any proceedings. Contact Mahoney Law Firm to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal rights and options. Remember, no one should have to tolerate harassment or feel unsafe in their workplace.

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