Posted On: March 29, 2013

Is Consent A Defense In Sexual Harassment Cases?

So you filed a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and the Respondent is claiming there was a consensual relationship. Why would Respondent do this and what does it mean? Well in order to prove a case of sexual harassment, one has to show the sexual advances were unwanted. By saying there was a consensual sexual relationship, the Respondent is disputing the sexual advances were unwarranted. However, the Respondent is also admitting to the sexual relationship which is risky.

The issues gets even murkier if the Respondent is in a position of power over you. For example if your boss is the one engaging in the sexual harassment, there can be no true consent because of the power your boss has over your career. So why do Respondents claim a consensual relationship as a defense? Many times they engage in this tactic when there are text messages that prove the boss was engaging in sexual harassment. The boss can't change the text messages and therefore has to try and explain the sexual messages. Therefore, the consensual defense is usually a last ditch effort to try to explain poor behavior.