By now most of Illinois, if not beyond, is aware that yet another major celebrity (this time a famous Chicago radio host), has been accused of sexual harassment in court pleadings. It has been years since the Me Too movement began, and stories still arise about sexual harassment in the workplace. Still!
Time is running out. The Illinois Workplace Transparency Act requires all employers to train employees on sexual harassment prevention by December 31, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter. This requirement applies to all employers with employees working in the State of Illinois. There is no Covid-19 pandemic response reprieve.
All Illinois employers must provide yearly sexual harassment prevention training starting this year. Illinois Public Act 101-0221 amended the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) , Section 2-109,requiring Illinois employers to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training by December 31, 2020, and then annually thereafter.
Illinois hotels and casinos need to begin to prepare for a new employee safety law taking effect in 2020 known as the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act, 820 ILCS 325/5-10. Beginning July 1, 2020, hotels and casinos in Illinois will be required to have anti-sexual harassment policies including access to a safety button or notification device for its workers.
What Is Covered by the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act?
Signed into law August 9 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act has two major provisions designed to improve employee safety.
Safety or Notification Device
First, the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act requires all employees working alone in guest rooms, restrooms or casino floors to be supplied with a safety or notification device:
(a) Each hotel and casino shall equip an employee who is assigned to work in a guest room, restroom, or casino floor, under circumstances where no other employee is present in the room or area, with a safety device or notification device. The employee may use the safety device or notification device to summon help if the employee reasonably believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other emergency is occurring in the employee’s presence.
The safety device or notification device shall be provided by the hotel or casino at no cost to the employee.
Notification to Employees
Second, the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act requires that hotels and casinos to create and implement a written sexual harassment policy to protect the employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests. The policy must contain the following in order to comply with the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act:
- encourage an employee to immediately report to the hotel employer or casino employer any instance of alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment by a guest;
- describe the procedures that the complaining employee and hotel employer or casino employer shall follow to make the report;
- instruct the complaining employee to cease work and to leave the immediate area where danger is perceived until hotel or casino security personnel or police arrive to provide assistance;
- offer temporary work assignments to the complaining employee during the duration of the offending guest’s stay at the hotel or casino, which may include assigning the complaining employee to work on a different floor or at a different station or work area away from the offending guest;
- provide the complaining employee with necessary paid time off to file a police report or criminal complaint against the offending guest; and if so required, testify as a witness at any legal proceeding that ensues as a result of the criminal complaint;
- inform the complaining employee that the Illinois Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provide additional protections against sexual harassment in the workplace; and
- inform the complaining employee that it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against any employee who reasonably uses a safety device or notification device; in good faith avails himself or herself of the requirements set forth above or discloses, reports, or testifies about any violation of this Act or rules adopted under this Act.
Each hotel employer and casino employer must also provide all employees with a current copy in English and Spanish of the hotel employer’s or casino employer’s anti-sexual harassment policy and post the policy in English and Spanish in conspicuous places in areas of the hotel or casino, such as supply rooms or employee lunch rooms, where employees can reasonably be expected to see it. Each hotel employer and casino employer shall also make all reasonable efforts to provide employees with a current copy of its written anti-sexual harassment policy in any language other than English and Spanish that, in its sole discretion, is spoken by a predominant portion of its employees.
Retaliation and Damages
The Hotel and Casino Safety Act also prohibits employer retaliation against workers who use the device or disclose, report or testify about violations of the Act.
The Hotel and Casino Employees Safety Act provides for damages against hotels and casinos for violating the Act. Nevertheless, before the employee may bring a claim under this Act, the employee must first notify the hotel or casino employer in writing of the alleged violation under this Act and allow the employer 15 calendar days to remedy the alleged violation. If the employer, does not remediate, the Act provides that an employee claiming a violation of this Act may bring an action against the hotel or casino employer in state court and is entitled to money damages, injunctive relief, reinstatement and other relief the employee would be entitled under law or equity. An employee that successfully brings a claim under this Act is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs and money damages up to $350 for each violation. Under the Act, each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate violation.
While the Act does not take effect until July 1, 2020, employers subject to the Act should begin now to update their sexual harassment policies to include the above- safeguards. Employers should also begin investigating the implementation of safety measures so that on July 1, 2020, the employer will be in compliance with this law.
If you have any questions regarding the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act or need assistance with drafting or updating sexual harassment policies, contact Kristin Tauras. Ms. Tauras represents and counsels employers on employment defense matters. She has also written extensively on evolving Illinois Anti-Sexual Harassment regulations.