December 16, 2019

All professionals licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) whose licenses come up for renewal after January 1, 2020 and who must satisfy continuing education requirements need to complete one hour of sexual harassment and prevention training under a law that Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed.

Health care companies that employ registered nurses, pharmacists, doctors and other health care professionals licensed by IDFPR should start making plans to conduct sexual harassment training to help their employees avoid license renewal issues next year.

Most large and medium-sized corporations have conducted in-house harassment and discrimination training for years. More than 20 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that companies may have an affirmative defense against lawsuits alleging that a supervisor sexually harassed a subordinate if the employer adopted and annually trained its employees on policies that:

  • define the different forms of sexual harassment,
  • detail to whom to report harassment complaints,
  • detail how the company will investigate such complaints, and
  • prohibit retaliation for good-faith reporting of such complaints

After those Supreme Court decisions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adopted a similar standard for all forms of illegal discrimination.

The new Illinois law, an outgrowth of the #MeToo movement, governs only sexual harassment, not other forms of discrimination. But smart employers will protect their employees and themselves by combining sexual harassment training with training on other types of discrimination. That approach allows employees to obtain the needed continuing education credits under the new law while simultaneously ensuring that employees understand what constitutes harassment and discrimination, to whom employees can report complaints and how their employers will investigate such complaints.

The new state statute is short on details. It simply says that all professionals who have continuing education requirements and are renewing their licenses after January 1, 2020 need one hour of continuing education credits on sexual harassment. The statute authorizes IDFPR to provide detailed regulations on such training, which IDFPR has not yet done.

Attorneys in Much's Labor & Employment and Health Care groups are certified to award continuing education credits for many health care professionals. Please call your Much attorney if you are interested in having us conduct sexual harassment and discrimination training for your employees. We recommend that employers record the training so that all new employees can watch it as part of orientation, and so that all employees can watch the recording annually to remind them of company policy and reporting and investigation procedures. That video recording, together with an interactive Q&A session conducted with a certified continuing education provider, will ensure that your licensed employees have the needed training to satisfy this new requirement.

This article contains material of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Under applicable rules of professional conduct, this content may be regarded as attorney advertising.