Illinois Sexual Harassment Training for Nurses

Course Highlights

  • In this course you will obtain Illinois sexual harassment training for nurses.
  • You’ll also learn the basics of identifying inappropriate sexual behaviors in the workplace, as required by the Illinois Board of Nursing.
  • You’ll leave this course with a broader understanding of reporting and protecting individuals who have experienced sexual harassment.


Contact Hours Awarded: 1

Morgan Curry

Course By:
Elaine Enright

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The following course content

In this Illinois sexual harassment training for nurses, we will discuss sexual harassment in the nursing profession.  This course will cover topics required by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and the Illinois Board of Nursing.


Sexual harassment is a serious issue within the healthcare workplace. In one study, more than 70% of female staff nurses reported having been harassed by male coworkers or male patients (1). In another study, 35% of student nurses reported having experienced sexual harassment in the previous year.

The most likely perpetrators for both student nurses and registered nurses were patients. However, physicians and male staff were most likely to be perpetrators of sexual harassment toward registered nurses (2). It is important to remember that sexual harassment is not limited to female registered nurses; male nurses are also at risk of experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. Our Illinois sexual harassment training for nurses will help prepare you for any unfortunate potential experiences you may have with sexual harassment in your workplace.

The impacts of sexual harassment affect nurses in many negative ways. In this course, Illinois Sexual Harassment training will be obtained to help you avoid these negative outcomes. There are obvious psychological consequences, but there is also evidence to suggest that work performance can also be affected (3). Many states, including Illinois, have recognized the significant impact of this issue and have taken measures to empower nurses to prevent and/or address sexual harassment.

Quiz Questions

Self Quiz

Ask yourself...

  1. Have you or a co-worker ever experienced sexual harassment in the workplace?
  2. Why do you suppose this Illinois sexual harassment training for nurses might be necessary?

Why are Nurses Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment?

Not everyone has undergone training, such as with the valuable preparation you are getting through this Illinois Sexual Harassment training.  Even so, nurses are vulnerable to sexual harassment by the very nature of their position. The role of nursing transgresses societal norms regarding physical contact and involves intimate care of patients both physically and emotionally. This role is often exploited by perpetrators – they may take advantage of a nurse’s position and caring demeanor as a means to harass them (3).

Staff-on-staff harassment is also commonly reported by nurses (1). Nurses are pre-disposed to this type of harassment due to their subservient position to many staff members (physicians, administration) and the subsequent power imbalance that results.

Quiz Questions

Self Quiz

Ask yourself...

  1. Why do you feel nurses are vulnerable to sexual harassment, and how do you think an individual is likely to respond without the Illinois sexual harassment training?
  2. What workplace environmental factors can lead to nurses experiencing sexual harassment?

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is commonly thought to be unwelcome contact. However, sexual harassment takes many forms. It can be defined as unwelcome sexual behaviors or actions which may be verbal, physical, mental or visual (4).

Listed below are some common examples of potential sexual harassment:

  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
  • Pressure for sexual favors.
  • Deliberate touching, leaning over, or cornering.
  • Sexual looks or gestures.
  • Letters, telephone calls, personal e-mails, texts, or other materials of a sexual nature.
  • Pressure for dates.
  • Sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
  • Referring to an adults as “girl,” “hunk,” “doll.” “babe,” “honey,” or other similar terms.
  • Whistling at someone.
  • Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
  • Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history.
  • Sexual comments, innuendos, or sexual stories.
  • Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks.
  • Kissing sounds, howling and smacking lips.
  • Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s sex life.
  • Neck and/or shoulder massage.
  • Touching an employee’s clothing, hair, or body (6).

Here is how sexual harassment is defined in the Illinois Ethics act, which governs state officials and employees:

“…Any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any conduct of sexual nature when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term of condition of an individuals’ employment.
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual or
  3. Such conduct has the purpose of effect of substantially interfering with an individuals’ work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

For the purposes of this definition, the phrase “working environment” is not limited to a physical location an employee is assigned to perform his or her duties and does not require an employment relationship (5).”

As you can see, the definition of sexual harassment, according to this Illinois sexual harassment training, is broad and can encompass many situations. Though the Illinois Ethics Act primarily relates to employee-employer sexual harassment, there are many other scenarios, such as sexual harassment by patients.

Quiz Questions

Self Quiz

Ask yourself...

  1. Many nurses do not know that the definition of sexual harassment is broad. Without essential preparation from courses like this Illinois sexual harassment training, they might not know how to respond.
  2. Knowing this, are there any situations you would consider sexual harassment, where you previously would not have?

Key Points for Sexual Harassment

Sexual conduct vs. sexual harassment – Sexual behavior turns into sexual harassment when the recipient receives the behavior in an unwelcome manner. The term “unwelcome” refers to unsolicited or uninvited behavior and undesirable or offensive behavior.

Females and males can both be victims – Any unwelcome sexual behavior may be considered sexual harassment, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator and recipient. Male-on-male, female-on-female, female-on-male, and male-on-female types of harassment may occur.

Sexual harassment can affect witnesses – Anyone who is affected by the sexually offensive conduct may be a victim. This may include a person witnessing or overhearing sexually harassing behavior (6).

It can occur outside the working environment – The “working environment” is not limited to the physical location of work. A “working environment” may be extended to any location where work occurs, such as remote locations, off-site locations, and temporary working locations (6).

It doesn’t only occur in person – Sexual harassment can occur on and off the clock. It can occur physically and electronically. Unwelcome sexual conduct through email, phone calls, texts, social media postings and other mediums may constitute sexual harassment.


Two Types of Sexual Harassment


Quid pro Quo

Quid pro quo means “A favor for a favor.” In this sense, it refers to an authority figure (manager or supervisor) requesting a sexual favor in exchange for preferential treatment. This could be in the form of a promotion, raise, preferred assignment or any other job benefit which they may affect (6).

Hostile Work Environment

Another method by which an individual may coerce sexual favors is through the threat or actuality of a hostile work environment. This refers to creating or threatening to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment in order to influence sexual favors or behavior

Quiz Questions

Self Quiz

Ask yourself...

  1. What would be an example of quid pro quo?
  2. How is this type of harassment different than hostile work environment?

What Should Nurses Do If They Experience Sexual Harassment?

If you feel you have been the victim of unwelcome sexual behavior (sexual harassment) there are avenues available to you for support and to report the behavior.

While it may not be an easy thing to do (or even possible), try to make it known that the sexual behavior is unwelcome and unwanted. It is your right to inform the person of your stance and to demand the behavior cease. Though this can be difficult and uncomfortable, it is often the most effective method (7).

You should be explicit in explaining the behaviors which are unwelcome so that the perpetrator can fully understand his/her actions. If you are uncomfortable confronting the perpetrator, consider confiding in a close friend or supervisor who can accompany you or advise you on next steps.

Next, document the scenario. Write down all details you can recall including any witnesses. This can be helpful in the future.

Reporting the issue is the next step.

How or whether you report the sexual harassment is a personal choice and you are not limited. Remember that according to Illinois law you are entitled to a workplace free of sexual harassment. There are several options for reporting sexual harassment, and there are several nuances with jurisdiction and handling of complaints.

1. Within Your Organization

You may contact your supervisor or human resources representative to report an incident. This is often a more comfortable route for nurses as they may be familiar with these individuals. Your organization should have policies and procedures for handling sexual harassment reports which may include escalation to other organizations, such as IDHR and law enforcement as necessary. This is often the fastest method for reporting. Remember that reporting to your supervisor, ethics officer, or human resources official does not preclude you from reporting to other agencies as appropriate. If you wish to remain anonymous, check with your organization to see if they have a policy that gives you that option.

2. Illinois Department of Human Rights

The IDHR is responsible for administering the Illinois Human Right Act. The IDHR views and sexual harassment as a civil rights violation. The IDHR will investigate complaints and determine if “substantial evidence” for harassment exists, which may provide relief for the complainant and punishment for the accused. Nurses can report to the IDHR by going to and filing the requisite information, or by calling 1-800-662-3942 (8). Note: complaints must be made within 300 days of the incident.

The State of Illinois has an agreement with the Chicago Lighthouse Call Center, which operates a 24/7 helpline for victims of sexual harassment and discrimination. By calling, nurses can learn their options for reporting incidents, can file an anonymous report, and can be referred to appropriate agencies. Any information given during the call is confidential.

3. Law Enforcement

Criminal incidents of sexual harassment may be reported to law enforcement as appropriate. Often times your supervisor or human resource officer can assist in determining if this is necessary. If you ever feel that your physical safety is threatened, do not hesitate to contact law enforcement.

4. Office of Executive Inspector General (State Government Employees)

State employees or anyone under the jurisdiction of the OEIG may file a report directly with the OEIG. To initiate a report, it is best to contact your ethics officer for guidance.

5. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Sexual harassment is a violation of section 703 VII. The EOCC is charged with administering this statute and provides another option of relief for those who have experienced sexual harassment. The statute for reporting an offense to the EOCC is 180 days. Of note, the EOCC may hold employers responsible for taking all steps to create an environment free of sexual harassment and can offer an additional avenue for support (9).

Quiz Questions

Self Quiz

Ask yourself...

  1. How would you handle sexual harassment differently knowing your rights and reporting avenues?
  2. Are there any previous situation you would have handled differently?

Illinois Sexual Harassment Training for Nurses – Whistleblower Protections

Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal under both federal and state statutes. The Illinois Human Rights Act explicitly prohibits retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Retaliation is defined as “conduct intended to deter or dissuade a person from making a complaint or filing a report of sexual harassment, or participating in an investigation conducted by the Illinois Department of Human Right or other similar agency” (Illinois Department of Human Right, reference #10). Additionally, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits retaliation aimed at employees who assert their rights to be free of harassment (11).


Sexual harassment can take place in many venues and formats. It is broadly defined as any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviors.  Sexual harassment is experienced frequently by nursing professionals due to the nature of their positions.  You have a right per the state of Illinois and Federal law to be free of sexual harassment in the workplace.

If you experience sexual harassment, you should tell the harasser to stop and report the incident in one of the various methods listed above. Do not forget to document the incident and any reporting thoroughly.

You have a right to report sexual harassment without retaliation, per both Illinois law and Federal laws.  This Illinois sexual harassment training has adequately prepared you to do so in the event a situation arises.

References + Disclaimer

  1. Sexual harassment of female registered nurses in hospitals. M. K. Libbus, K. G. BowmanJ Nurs Adm. 1994 Jun; 24(6): 26–31.
  2. Sexual harassment of nurses: an occupational hazard? S. J. Finnis, I. Robbins J Clin Nurs. 1994 Mar; 3(2): 87–95.
  3. Sexual harassment in nursing. Robbins, I, Bender MP, Finnis SJ . Journal of advanced Nursing (1997) 25 (1) 163-9.
  4. Prevalence of sexual harassment of nurses and nursing students in China: A Meta-analysis of observational Studies. Liang-Nan Z, Qian-Qian Z, Ji-Wen Zhang, Li Lu, Feng-Rong An, Chee H, Gabor S, Fang-Yu, Teris C, Ligang C, Yu-Tao. International Journal of biological Sciences (2019). 15 (4) 749-756.
  5. Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/5-65(b). Illinois state officials and employees ethics acts (2019). Retrieved from Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/5-65(b).
  6. 2019 Sexual harassment training. Office of executive inspector general for the agencies of Illinois governor (2019). Retrieved from
  7. Types of sexual harassment: everything you need to know. (2020).
  8. Illinois Department of Human Rights (2020).
  9. Code of federal regulations. Title 29- labor. Guidelines on discrimination because of sex.
  10. What is sexual harassment? Illinois sexual harassment and discrimination helpline (2020). Retrieved from
  11. Facts about retaliation (2015). U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from
  12. Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Helpline

Use of Course Content. The courses provided by NCC are based on industry knowledge and input from professional nurses, experts, practitioners, and other individuals and institutions. The information presented in this course is intended solely for the use of healthcare professionals taking this course, for credit, from NCC. The information is designed to assist healthcare professionals, including nurses, in addressing issues associated with healthcare. The information provided in this course is general in nature and is not designed to address any specific situation. This publication in no way absolves facilities of their responsibility for the appropriate orientation of healthcare professionals. Hospitals or other organizations using this publication as a part of their own orientation processes should review the contents of this publication to ensure accuracy and compliance before using this publication. Knowledge, procedures or insight gained from the Student in the course of taking classes provided by NCC may be used at the Student’s discretion during their course of work or otherwise in a professional capacity. The Student understands and agrees that NCC shall not be held liable for any acts, errors, advice or omissions provided by the Student based on knowledge or advice acquired by NCC. The Student is solely responsible for his/her own actions, even if information and/or education was acquired from a NCC course pertaining to that action or actions. By clicking “complete” you are agreeing to these terms of use.

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