Sexual Harassment Training Now Required
On August 9, 2019, Illinois enacted the Workplace Transparency Act, which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act. This new law requires that all Illinois employers provide annual sexual harassment training to its employees.
Effective January 1, 2020, all employers must train all employees in Illinois each year. The first deadline is January 1, 2021. The annual sexual harassment training program must include:
An explanation of sexual harassment
Examples of conduct that constitute unlawful sexual harassment
A summary of federal and state statutory provisions, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.
A summary of the responsibilities of employers for prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.
Employers who do not provide training will be subject to civil penalties, including a $500 penalty to businesses with less than 4 employees, or a $1,000 penalty to those with 4 or more employees. Penalties for repeat violations can rise to $5,000 per violation.
In addition to the training requirements, the Workplace Transparency Act makes the following changes:
Independent contractors. The Workplace Transparency Act amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to protect not just employees, but also independent contractors from harassment and discrimination.
Disclosures. The new law requires employers, labor organizations, and local governments to disclose to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) the total number of final adverse administrative or judicial decisions involving sexual harassment or discrimination in the previous year entered anywhere in the U.S. Employers must make the disclosure beginning July 1, 2020 and each July 1 thereafter. Employers may also be required by the IDHR to disclose during an investigation the total number of settlements involving sexual harassment and discrimination claims entered into during the previous five years anywhere in the U.S.
Non-disclosure agreements, non-disparagement clauses, and mandatory arbitration agreements. The Workplace Transparency Act places significant restrictions on the use of these types of agreements for cases involving harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.
Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA). The law expands VESSA to allow victims of domestic, sexual, or gender violence to take unpaid leave to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning, and other assistance without penalty, if requested. A victim of workplace harassment could be entitled to such leave.
Bar and restaurant owners. Owners of restaurants and bars are now required to provide sexual harassment training annually to all employees (regardless of employee classification), available in both English and Spanish. The training must be specifically aimed at the prevention of sexual harassment in the restaurant and bar industry. Such employers must also provide employees with the company’s sexual harassment policy and instructions on how to report sexual harassment incidents within the first week of hire.
Casino and hotel owners. By July 1, 2020, owners of hotels and casinos are required to provide portable safety notification devices (at no cost) to employees who frequently work alone in restrooms, guest rooms, casino floors, or other isolated spaces. The safety device must allow them to call for help if they fear their safety or witness sexual assault or harassment.
Casino and hotel owners must also provide all employees with a current copy of the hotel or casino’s anti-sexual harassment policy (including reporting procedures and the prohibition against retaliation) and post the policy in clearly visible areas of the hotel or casino, both in English and Spanish.
This new law should be taken seriously and every Illinois employer must comply. Employers can design and implement their own in-house training program or outsource the training to a thrid party vendor. If you would like more information or need a referral to an outside training vendor, please contact Shelly Lustig at 847.509.9090, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on the web at https://www.lustiglaw.com