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Employers Can Avoid Penalties for Failing to Comply with Illinois’ Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Law

Employers Can Avoid Penalties for Failing to Comply with Illinois’ Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Law

The Illinois Workplace Transparency Act required all employers to train employees on sexual harassment prevention by December 31, 2020, and requires training thereafter on an annual basis. If your company failed to do so, there is still time to comply to avoid penalties.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Required As Part of The Workplace Transparency Act.

Effective January 1, 2020, the Workplace Transparency Act requires that all Illinois employers train all employees in Illinois on an annual basis. This requirement applies to all employers with employees working in the State of Illinois.

Employers had until December 31, 2020 to complete the sexual harassment training for last year.

The Date for 2020 Compliance Has Passed.

The date for compliance in 2020 has already passed. There was no Covid-19 pandemic response reprieve to the training requirement. When enacted, there was no way that the legislature could have predicted the world-wide Covid-19 pandemic, let alone its impact on employment and employment practices. Nevertheless, the Illinois Legislature still has not issued any exception to the requirement that the sexual harassment prevention training take place by the end of 2020.

Penalties for Failure to Comply with the Illinois Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training

Penalties for violating this provision may be steep, especially for small businesses.

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.

Time to Complete to Avoid Penalties.

There is still time to avoid or reduce penalties. Employers who did not complete the training by December 31, 2020, should plan to do so in January. As stated above, the IDHR will issue notices of violations and give employers 30 days to comply. By having a plan to complete training this month, then employers should be able to avoid the issuances of fines.

Late Compliance for 2020 Does Not Satisfy Compliance for 2020

If you did not complete in 2020 and hope to complete the training in 2021 with an intent to cover both years at once, think again. There is no loophole in the law that allows a delinquent employer to escape liability for failure to comply in 2020 by joining it with the 2021 training. Assuming you now do the training at the beginning of 2021 for the past year’s requirement, you should still do the 2021 training again by the end of 2021.

Thinking Outside the Act.

Beyond the legal requirements of the Act, it is a good idea to engage in this training on a yearly basis. If employees are informed of the company’s sexual harassment prevention policy and fail to comply with its notice provision, the company may have defenses available to them on both a state and federal level to any future sexual harassment claims. These same defenses would not be available if the employee is not aware (or claims a lack of awareness) of the company’s notice and reporting policies.

Requirement of Records of Attendance.

The employer is required to keep a record of every employee that has completed the company’s sexual harassment prevention training. This record keeping must be provided to Illinois IDHR on demand and may also be important evidence of notice of policy if a complaint of sexual harassment is brought against your company.

Contact Kristin Tauras at ktauras@mckenna-law.com 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. Kristin represents and defends employers with employment law matters.

Categories Business Law Employment Law General Litigation Legal Updates

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