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With the rise of the #metoo movement, victims of sexual harassment and assault have found the courage within and the support from others to speak up, and to discuss the injustices they suffered. Sexual harassment and assault are not new phenomena, of course. They existed long before the hashtag took hold in the fall of 2017.
In fact, in 2003, the Illinois General Assembly moved to protect victims of sexual harassment and assault by passing the Illinois Gender Violence Act.
Gender violence is a violent act that is committed because of a victim’s sex. It can also be a threat of a violent act. The Illinois Gender Violence Act (“IGVA”) protects victims of sexual harassment and violence, and has a relatively long statute of limitations.
This is very important, because all too often, victims who have suffered awful treatment are too traumatized to act right away. They may feel hesitant to report incidents that occurred at their workplace, that involve a coworker or boss. Before the IGVA, if a victim waited a year to come forward, the short statute of limitations would have been up, and there would be no opportunity to seek justice in court against his/her abuser. )
Another important aspect of the IGVA was its language centered around “persons” who could “personally” commit, encourage or assist in acts of gender-related violence. It was unclear if employers could be held liable for their employees’ sexual violence. If someone’s boss repeatedly groped her/him, would the company be responsible for the boss’s actions?
In 2019, a decision made by the Illinois Appellate Court (Gasic v. Marquette Mgt., Inc.) brought some clarity to this. Under certain circumstances, corporations can be held liable under the IGVA. Since that decision, a growing number of courts in Illinois have agreed that corporate employers can be liable for their employees’ gender-related violence.
In addition we have used this law to bring lawsuits for other acts of sexual abuse including against fraternities where rapes have occurred.
This is an important law for victims of sexual violence. It provides damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. In other words, it costs nothing to bring a lawsuit under the Gender Violence Act and you can make a significant recovery.
This may be a bit confusing. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault, feel free to contact us. All calls and emails are confidential, and we can advise you on what the next steps should be.