New Sexual Harassment Prevention Requirements for Many Chicago Employers
Beginning July 1, 2022, employers with one or more employees in the City of Chicago must comply with new sexual harassment prevention training and notification requirements. These requirements were formalized on April 27, when the Chicago City Council amended the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance.
The amendments require covered employers to:
- Provide annual training for employees and supervisors on sexual harassment prevention and bystander intervention.
- Adopt a written sexual harassment policy.
- Display a poster (in English and Spanish) in a conspicuous area in the workplace on sexual harassment prohibitions.
The law applies to employers with one or more employees in the City of Chicago.
A covered employee is an individual who is engaged in work within the geographical boundaries of the City of Chicago.
Requirements for Employers
Sexual harassment prevention and bystander intervention training. Employers must mandate that covered employees participate annually in:
- Sexual harassment prevention training, the duration of which depends on the type of employee:
- One hour for rank-and-file employees
- Two hours for supervisors and managers
- One hour of bystander intervention training.
Note that these requirements exceed those currently applicable to employers by the State of Illinois. Employers must ensure that covered employees participate in their first required trainings by no later than June 30, 2023 (one year following the effective date of the law) and annually thereafter.
Written sexual harassment policy. Employers must adopt a written policy on sexual harassment that includes:
- A statement that sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment are illegal in Chicago;
- The meaning of “sexual harassment” as defined in the city’s municipal code (which is broader than the definition under federal or state law, as it includes sexual misconduct, which encompasses “any behavior of a sexual nature involving coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.”)
- The annual training requirements for sexual harassment prevention and bystander intervention;
- Examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment; and
- Details on resources available to employees, including:
- How to report allegations of sexual harassment internally, such as instructions for confidential reporting to a manager, employer’s corporate headquarters, or human resources department; and
- Legal services, including governmental services, available to individuals who may have experienced sexual harassment.
The written policy must be available in employees’ primary language within the first week of their employment.
Poster. Employers must conspicuously display (in English and Spanish), in at least one location in the workplace where employees commonly gather, posters designed by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (the Commission). The posters address the prohibitions on sexual harassment.
Other Changes to Consider
The amendments give employees extra time to file complaints, give the Commission extra time to act on such complaints, impose certain recordkeeping requirements, and enhance penalties for violations. Specific issues include:
Increased statute of limitations. Employees who experience sexual harassment now have 365 days, instead of 300 days, after the violation occurs to file a complaint with the Commission.
More time for the Commission to issue a complaint. The Commission may delay issuing a sexual harassment complaint to the respondent from 10 days to up to 30 days after the complainant files such complaint.
Recordkeeping. Employers must retain for at least five years, or for the duration of any claim, civil action, or investigation pending pursuant to the ordinance, whichever is longer, records regarding their sexual harassment policy, training, and compliance with the ordinance.
Penalties. An employer that violates the policy, training, or posting requirements is subject to a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000 per violation. Every day that a violation continues will be considered a separate and distinct offense.
Covered employers should make sure that they adopt a written sexual harassment policy, provide training, and display posters that comply with the new requirements. Employers also should be prepared to provide their sexual harassment policy, in the employee’s primary language, to newly hired employees during onboarding. Much's Labor & Employment attorneys are available to help you navigate these new requirements and implement changes to ensure compliance.