Alexis Martin and Madeline Engel Prevail at Trial before the Illinois Human Rights Commission

In August 2016, Alexis D. Martin and Madeline Engel of Caffarelli & Associates conducted a three-day trial before Administrative Law Judge William J. Borah at the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Ms. Martin and Ms. Engel represented Complainant, Claudia Torres, against Respondents, El Faro Restaurant and Adrian Reyes. Ms. Torres was a former waitress at El Faro who alleged that she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor and retaliated against when she complained about the harassment. On February 3, 2017, Judge Borah recommended a finding of liability against Respondents for subjecting Ms. Torres to a hostile work environment, which constitutes sexual harassment. Although Ms. Torres was the only witness to testify to Reyes’ harassment, Judge Borah recognized that a Complainant’s credible testimony alone is sufficient to sustain a finding of liability. Judge Borah found that, although Reyes did not make sexual advances or request sexual favors from Ms. Torres, “Reyes’s conduct created “an intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment.” Offensive terms and remarks describing sexual acts, bodily functions, and parts of the female anatomy constitute “conduct of a sexual nature.”” The Judge further found that the “verbal attacks were intentionally made to embarrass and humiliate Complainant. The verbal attacks were of a sexual nature, mostly related to employment directives or chastisements. The incidents were hurtful enough by the sheer number of them to cause emotional distress, as testified by Complainant.” This finding is an important recognition that sexual harassment exists in many forms, and that verbal attacks of a sexual nature – even when couched as a ‘joke’ or ‘employment discipline’ – are unlawful violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment at work, please contact the offices of Caffarelli & Associates, Ltd.

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