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Chicago Sexual Harassment Training Law: Requirements In 2022

Harassment & Discrimination

New Chicago Sexual Harassment Training Law: Requirements In 2022

The city of Chicago is following in New York City's steps in mandating stricter sexual harassment prevention measures for the city's employers. Sexual harassment is illegal in the American workplace -- but continues to exist -- and the Chicago City Council has recently taken extra steps to legislate and enforce the prevention of this unnecessary and unacceptable work hazard.

Read on to find out the updates made to the existing Chicago sexual harassment training law, what the Chicago employers have to do to comply with the new changes and requirements, and how long they have to make it happen.

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Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Of all the ways coworkers mistreat each other -- or supervisors abuse their power with underlings -- sexual harassment remains the most frequent offense.

While sexual harassment is illegal on the federal level, thanks to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , only a few U.S. states (and fewer cities) mandate comprehensive, robust sexual harassment prevention laws for employers -- such posting anti-sexual harassment notices in public areas and requiring training of staff and leadership.

Chicago is joining the fight against workplace harassment by tightening the screws on old, vague definitions, as well as outlining a policy designed to provide everyone -- the employer and their employees -- with a clearer roadmap on preventing future cases of sexual harassment as well as handling the existing ones effectively and with proper due process.

Ultimate Guide To State And Local Harassment Prevention Training Requirements

Download the guide outlining all the state and local laws around sexual harassment prevention training requirements.

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Changes To Existing Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy

In April of 2022, the Chicago City Council gave the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, enforced by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR), a significant update/upgrade. The Mayor was clear about the intent to enforce the city's sexual harassment laws with zero tolerance for violence and harassment.

Until recently, the category of "sexual harassment" took up just one small paragraph in the Ordinance (formerly found in section 2-160-040) among all the other types of discriminatory behaviors one can encounter at the workplace, in public accommodations, and with credit transactions. The new amendments supplement and clarify employer obligations in proactively combatting sexual harassment at the workplace in the city of Chicago -- and increase penalties for noncompliance.

New Legislature On Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment prevention training requirements apply to employers with one or more employees in the city of Chicago that are bound by Chicago licensing requirements or maintain a business facility within the city limits.

The amendments to the ordinance prohibiting sexual harassment boil down to the following six points:

Updated Definition Of Sexual Harassment

The definition of "sexual harassment" now includes "sexual misconduct". Here is the full updated definition (change goes into effect on June 4, 2022):

(i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature

(ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment;, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for any employment decision affecting the individual;, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment

(iii) sexual misconduct, which means any behavior or a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual's employment position.

Written Policy/Notice Requirement

Beginning on July 1, 2022, all city of Chicago employers must be in possession of a written policy on sexual harassment. The policy must be made available to every existing and new hire -- in the employee's primary language -- within the first calendar week of starting -- and should include at least the following items:

A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago

The most updated legal definition of sexual harassment (now to be found in Section 6-010-020 of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance)

Examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment at work

Details on the process of reporting sexual harassment internally (complete with an internal complaint form and instructions on how to file a confidential report with a manager, corporate headquarters, or human resources department)

Details on the legal services (including government-run ones) available to employees who experience sexual harassment at work

A statement making it known that retaliation against employees for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago

A statement informing the employee that they are required to participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually

Employers are also responsible for displaying a CCHR poster about sexual harassment prohibition -- to be available in English and Spanish, hanging in a visible place where employees commonly gather.

The city of Chicago will provide a model sexual harassment policy on their website in several languages -- along with the above-mentioned poster with the required written notice -- by the time the ordinance amendments go into effect.

Additional Employee Safety Measures

The amended ordinance allows the Chicago Commission On Human Relations to take longer than before -- up to 30 days, as opposed to 10 days allowed previously -- to notify the employer that a sexual harassment complaint has been filed against them. This prolonged delay is intended to reduce retaliation by the employer and will go into effect on June 4, 2022.

Statute Of Limitations Increase

Employees who believe they have been victimized by workplace sexual harassment have been extended a longer statute of limitations to report any sort of discrimination, including sexual harassment: it has gone from 300 days to 365 days from the alleged incident. This change goes into effect on July 1, 2022.

New Training Obligations

As of July 1, 2022, all Chicago employers must institute and abide by the new annual training requirements:

One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees

Two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for managers/supervisors

One hour of "bystander training" (i.e. recognizing a potentially harmful situation and knowing how to intervene effectively and safely) for all employees

Employers must conduct the first round of trainings between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023; the training is to be administered on an annual basis between July 1 and June 30 thereafter.

Employers must keep demonstrable records of their sexual harassment policies and training schedules.

Heightened Penalties For Noncompliance

The penalties for all forms of discrimination have increased from $500-1,000 per violation to $5,000-10,000 per violation.

Filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint

An employee who believes they have been a victim of sexual harassment can lodge a complaint:

Internally. Typically, the complaint goes to the Human Resources department (the process should be outlined in the "written policy" provided to each employee by the employer, as specified by the new law).

Externally. The Chicago Commission On Human Rights provides detailed instructions on how to file a sexual harassment complaint with their office online.

Retaliation For Reporting Sexual Harassment Is Unlawful

Each employee wishing to file a sexual harassment complaint -- internally with the HR or externally with the CCHR -- is protected by the law to exercise their civil right to do so. The employer may not change their attitude or treatment of the employee over filing a discrimination complaint of any kind.

Get The Best Sexual Harassment Prevention Training For Your Business

The law requires that Chicago employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually.

Employers may make use of the training program developed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (in line with all the annual training requirements outlined in the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA)) -- or they may develop their own training that fulfills the IHRA-specified sexual harassment prevention obligations or exceeds them.

Or... They could invest into the BEST training for their employees to comply with sexual harassment laws in Illinois.

Let EasyLlama Step In With The Best Training!

Sexual harassment prevention is infinitely less costly, both in employee suffering and in employer liability. Which is why it makes sense not just to cover the bare minimum legal requirements -- but to offer anti-sexual harassment workforce training that gets through -- and sticks -- in the minds and hearts of the employees.

EasyLlama's IHRA-compliant Illinois Sexual Harassment E-Training is easy to administer, simple and fast to take on any mobile device -- and yet, it creates a lasting commitment to keeping inappropriate, unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature out of the workplace. Try it!

Written by: Maria Malyk

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