Chicago Expands Sexual Harassment Prevention Requirements
AuthorsYvette Heintzelman , Paul E. Starkman , Lidia Koelbel
The City of Chicago amended its human rights ordinance to require that employers provide better tools to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The changes took effect on July 1, 2022. The updated ordinance requires that all employers have a written policy with specific required items, a training plan, a formal reporting process, a notice requirement, and a document retention policy. Additionally, the updated ordinance expands the definition of sexual harassment to include “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” and “sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.”
The majority of the requirements are already in effect under the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”). Important differences include the Chicago ordinance’s requirement for one hour of bystander training that the IHRA does not require and the specification of the duration of the various employee trainings that the IHRA does not specify. Also, while the Chicago ordinance’s requirement that the policy be in writing applies to all employers, such a requirement only applies to government agencies, government contractors, and bars and restaurants under the IHRA. Another important difference is that the Chicago ordinance increases the statute of limitations by 65 days to 365 days. The statute of limitations under the Illinois Department of Human Rights Procedures is 300 days.
Written Policy Requirement
The Chicago ordinance requires that an employer’s anti-harassment policy (a) be in writing; (b) be in the employee’s primary language; (c) state the definition of sexual harassment; (d) state that sexual harassment is illegal; and (e) be provided to employees within their first week of employment. The required policy must also provide:
- A training plan that all employees must participate in on an annual basis;
- Examples of the prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment;
- A confidential process to report harassment;
- A list of legal services, including governmental agencies, that are available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment; and
- A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
Annual Training Obligations
Employers must also require that their employees participate in specific annual trainings as outlined below. Employers have until June 30, 2023, to complete the initial set of trainings. Each subsequent year for required training will begin on July 1. The required trainings are as follows:
- Employees must participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually;
- Anyone who supervises or manages employees must participate in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually; and
- All employees must participate in one hour of bystander training annually.
Every employer must display posters designed by the City Commission on Human Rights regarding the prohibitions on sexual harassment in at least one location where employees commonly gather. Employers must display at least one poster in English and one poster in Spanish.
Each employer must maintain a record of the employer’s written policy, training given to each employee, and other records necessary to demonstrate compliance for at least five years, or for the duration of any claim, civil action, or investigation pending pursuant to this section, whichever is longer. Failure to maintain these records will create a presumption that the employer violated the new sexual harassment ordinance.
Chicago employers must familiarize themselves with the City’s new sexual harassment ordinances and must abide by its new requirements. Violating the written policy, training, and notice requirements will subject employers to fines between $500 and $1,000 for each offense and each day the violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Violations regarding the substantive ordinance against sexual harassment will result in a fine between $5,000 and $10,000. Substantive violations include an employer, agent of an employer, employment agency, or labor organization engaging in sexual harassment, or an employer failing to take reasonable corrective measures after becoming aware of sexual harassment by nonemployees or nonmanagerial and nonsupervisory employees.
The Commission on Human Relations website provides some model policies and materials to assist employers with the task of developing policies and processes that comply with the Ordinance’s new obligations. Included in those materials is a bystander training slide presentation. It is advisable that employers contact an attorney to ensure compliance with the new requirements.
Should you have any questions regarding the amended sexual harassment prevention or other amendments of the City of Chicago ordinances, please contact Yvette Heintzelman at email@example.com or Paul Starkman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or any other member of Clark Hill’s Labor and Employment team.
The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the authors and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice.
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