In a significant ruling interpreting the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Illinois Supreme Court recently expanded employers’ potential exposure to sexual harassment claims and damages by holding that an employer is strictly liable for sexual harassment committed by a supervisor, even if the supervisor does not directly supervise the employee who is harassed.
The case is Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department v. The Illinois Human Rights Commission (IL Nos. 105517, 105518, 2009).
Under this ruling, an employer is automatically liable for sexual harassment by any of its supervisors, without regard to whether the employer even knew about the harassment, or took reasonable corrective measures upon learning of the harassment.
Before Sangamon County, Illinois courts had imposed strict liability on an employer only for sexual harassment by the employee’s direct supervisor or someone in the employee’s chain of command.
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