Illinois employers need to be aware of the new mandatory sexual harassment training requirements. Illinois’ Workplace Transparency Act requires that all employees receive sexual harassment training on an annual basis and some jobs, such as those in restaurants and bars industry, require additional specialized training.
The Workplace Transparency Act’s prefatory statement identifies the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace:
The General Assembly finds that the organizational tolerance of sexual harassment has a detrimental influence in workplaces by creating a hostile environment for employees, reducing productivity, and increasing legal liability. It is the General Assembly's intent to encourage employers to adopt and actively implement policies to ensure their workplaces are safe for employees to report concerns about sexual harassment without fear of retaliation, loss of status, or loss of promotional opportunities.
The purpose of the sexual harassment training requirement is to improve the quality of employment for all employees.
General Sexual Harassment Training Program Requirements
The general mandatory annual sexual harassment training program that applies to most employees must include at a minimum:
- An explanation of sexual harassment;
- Examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
- A summary of the relevant federal and state statutory provisions prohibiting sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and
- A summary of the employer’s responsibilities to prevent, investigate and correct sexual harassment in the workplace.
Specialized Sexual Harassment Training Programs for Bars and Restaurants
Bars and restaurants have specialized sexual harassment training requirements. In addition to the above general sexual harassment training program requirements, bars and restaurants must provide additional training.
The training must include:
- specific conduct, activities, or videos related to the restaurant or bar industry;
- an explanation of manager liability and responsibility under the law; and
- English and Spanish language options.
In addition to training, every restaurant and bar operating in this State must have a sexual harassment policy provided to all employees, in writing, within the first calendar week of the employee's employment. The policy shall include:
- a prohibition on sexual harassment;
- the definition of sexual harassment under the Illinois Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- details on how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment internally, including options for making a confidential report to a manager, owner, corporate headquarters, human resources department, or other internal reporting mechanism that may be available;
- an explanation of the internal complaint process available to employees;
- how to contact and file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
- a prohibition on retaliation for reporting sexual harassment allegations; and a requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training.
The policy must be made available in English and Spanish.
IDHR Will Create a Model Training Program
The Illinois Workplace Transparency Act requires the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to create a model training program and make it available online at no cost to employers. The IDHR's model sexual harassment prevention training program may be used to supplement any existing program an employer is utilizing or develops. Unfortunately, the amendment does not set a date by which the IDHR is to post its model training program. As of publication of this article, there is no anticipated date of release.
Date for Compliance
Effective January 1, 2020, the Workplace Transparency Act requires that all Illinois employers train all employees in Illinois on an annual basis. Employers have until January 1, 2021 to complete the sexual harassment training, but the Act also states that new employees will have to be trained within 90 days of their start date. Thus, it is important for employers to move quickly to update their sexual harassment training materials.
Penalties for Failure to Comply with the Illinois Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training
If an employer violates this law, the IDHR will issue a notice giving the employer 30 days to comply. If the employer does not comply within 30 days, the IDHR will petition the Human Rights Commission for entry of an order imposing a civil penalty against the employer, 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 subsequent violations can rise to $5,000 per violation.
Contact McKenna Partner Kristin Tauras for questions about this new requirement in Illinois or if you need help in reviewing and updating your employment policies to assure compliance with the Workplace Transparency Act. Ms.Tauras represents and defends employers with employment law matters.