So everyone knows that if you are sexually harassed at work, you can file a claim of discrimination. However, what most people don’t realize is that if you are the victim of sexual harassment in any public place of business, you may have a claim against the person and the owner of the business. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in a public business you can file a claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”). The IDHR not only investigates claims based on employment and public accommodation but also claims involving discrimination in housing. I am always amazed at how many attorneys are not even fully aware of the breath of what the IDHR can investigate. Because the IDHR can investigate these claims anyone who has experienced sexual harassment by say the auto mechanic or grocery store worker is leaving money on the table by not filing a complaint. The process is very similar to filing based on employment and the same damages are available except for lost wages.
So how can you prove your case of sexual harassment in a public accommodation? There are many ways to prove your case. First, there may be witnesses who saw what happened and are willing to come forward. In order for this to happen, you would have to get their names and phone numbers. Don’t be afraid to ask for this information if you notice people around when you are being harassed. Also, if you notice employees around you can make a mental note of their names and they may be able to provide supporting evidence. Another way to get proof is if the harasser sends you text messages. Now I know you are thinking how is the person going to get my cell phone number? Well many times in a service industries the person would need your contact information to call you when the car is ready or when you are to come back in and pick up what you dropped off. So it really isn’t that unusual for a worker to have your cell phone number. You would be surprised to learn how many service workers and managers will sexually harass a customer. Another form of proof would be emails, however you are less likely to have a harassing type of email.
Any good employment lawyer who handles discrimination cases would be able to explain all of the details of a public accommodation case to you. Illinois is one of the few states that offers this type of protection to its’ citizens. Make sure you take advantage of this law. Also, in most instances the attorney will take this type of case on contingency basis. This means the attorney will not charge you by the hour or make you put money down in order to take the case. The attorney will get paid once the case is settled or once you receive a judgement. When an attorney takes a case this way you can be assured he believes in your case, otherwise he would not take it. This may not seem like a big deal but it really is. The last thing you want to do is pay money for an attorney on a case that isn’t really worth the money you paid for the attorney. By hiring an attorney on contingency fee basis, you can be sure the case has some value. This not only will give you peace of mind but it will make you feel confident that what happened to you was wrong and against the law.