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REASONABLE WOMAN STANDARD IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASES

NCJ Number
144122
Journal
Illinois Bar Journal Volume: 81 Issue: 8 Dated: (August 1993) Pages: 404- 408
Author(s)
K L Kirn
Date Published
1993
Length
5 pages
Annotation
The author contends that Illinois courts, or the legislature if necessary, should adopt a "reasonable woman" standard in sexual harassment cases to determine whether the conduct complained of by a female plaintiff is offensive.
Abstract
Sexual harassment has been expressly proscribed by Illinois law since 1984. At the Federal level, sexual harassment is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The outcry over unabated sexual harassment in the workplace was partially responsible for enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 which allows limited punitive and compensatory damages. A stumbling block to claimants filing charges of sexual harassment involves proving that the incident complained of constitutes sexual harassment as defined by statute and case law. Several Federal and State courts have adopted a reasonable woman standard for determining whether the conduct complained of by a female plaintiff is offensive. The reasonable woman standard, however, has been rejected by some courts. There is no indication from Illinois courts as to whether the reasonable woman standard will be adopted. Two cases illustrate the current law of sexual harassment in the State, State of Illinois v. The Human Rights Commission and Board of Directors, Green Hills Country Club v. The Human Rights Commission. Although critics argue that the reasonable woman test offends the notion that justice is blind and that courts should not judge men differently than women, these objections do not take into account differences in the workplace between men and women. In Illinois and elsewhere, women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to be victims of sexual crimes. 49 footnotes