Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department v. Illinois Human Rights Commission

Donna Feleccia was a records clerk with the county sheriff’s department. A coworker sent her a letter that appeared to be from the Illinois Department of Public Health informing her that she may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. When Feliccia read the letter, she became very upset and started shaking. The letter was sent by Yanor, a coworker of Feliccia’s, as a practical joke. Feliccia’s coworkers heard about the letter and/or that Feliccia had a sexually transmitted disease and Feliccia missed work and sleep over the incident. Yanor was only lightly disciplined and advised not to have any contact with Feliccia. Prior to the letter, Feliccia had endured several incidents of sexual harassment by Yanor, including once incident when he grabbed her and asked for a kiss and another when he asked her to go to a motel with him. Feliccia filed a charge of sexual harassment and retaliation against the sheriff’s department and Yanor. The court held that, under section 2-102(D) of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the sheriff’s department (i.e. the employer) was strictly liable for Yanor’s (i.e. a supervisory employee) “hostile environment” sexual harassment regardless of whether it was aware of the harassment or took measures to correct the harassment. It was irrelevant that Yanor did not have direct supervisory authority over Feliccia’s working conditions; in other words, an employer’s liability is not limited based on the harasser’s relationship to the victim. In addition, the court held that a sexual harassment claim is timely as long as it is filed within 180 days of any act that is part of the hostile work environment and that a factfinder may consider all of the conduct that makes up the hostile environment claim. Feliccia’s sexual harassment claim was meritorious because Yanor’s forged letter and other harassing conduct caused Feliccia to miss work and sleep.



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