There are many new laws giving Illinois employees more protection against sexual harassment in the workplace. On August 9, 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Public Act 101-0221 into law. Public Act 101-0221 takes several approaches to curbing sexual harassment in the workplace, by both strengthening the Human Rights Act as well as creating new laws to combat workplace sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Is Prohibited Under the Illinois Human Rights Act
The Illinois Human Rights Act protects Illinois employees, tenants, students and others from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is unwanted, deliberate or repeated sexual behavior. Sexual harassment can include the display of sexually suggestive objects, signs, magazines, or pictures, or the sending of sexually suggestive emails or text messages to persons who do not want this attention. Sexual harassment can also be a subtle or direct requirement that a sexual or social relationship is part of your job.
In employment, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any conduct of a sexual nature when:
- submission to such conduct is either explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of employment, and submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for making decisions about your employment; or
- such conduct interferes with your job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
New Illinois Laws Provide Greater Protections Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The legislature is continuing in its attempts to curb sexual harassment through its enactment of Public Act 101-0221. Public Act 101-0221 provides the following anti-harassment provisions:
- Workplace Transparency Act- prohibiting certain confidentiality clauses in sexual harassment settlement agreements.
- Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act - requiring additional protections to employees who work alone and require affirmative written anti-sexual harassment policies that protect employees against harassment.
- Training Requirements- amending the Illinois Human Rights Act to require that employers provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all employees.
- Arbitration Clause Restrictions - placing limitations on agreements to arbitrate sexual harassment claims and providing a rebuttable presumption that some standard arbitration clauses are unconscionable, such as limitations on venue, waivers of rights, limiting the time that employees may bring a claim, limits on damages and fee shifting provisions.
- Mandatory Disclosures - requiring that employers provide formal disclosures to the Illinois Department of Human Rights in 2020 where the employer has had at least one adverse determination of sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination in the prior year.
Given the significance and complexity of each of these new provisions, they will be addressed in five separate subsequent articles:
What Illinois Employers Need to Know about Illinois’ Work Place Transparency Act,
What Illinois Employers Need to know about the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act,
What Illinois Employers Need to Know About Sexual Harassment Training,
What Illinois Employers Need to know About Drafting Employee Arbitration Clauses, and
What Illinois Employers Need to Know About Mandatory Illinois Department of Human Rights Disclosures in 2020.
About the Author: Kristin Tauras
Kristin Tauras has presented seminars to clients on identifying and curbing sexual harassment in the workplace. She focuses her practice on helping employers with employment litigation matters. If you have any questions or want to have a review of your sexual harassment policies, please contact her directly.