Ensuring a safe workplace extends to keeping your employees safe from sexual harassment. In the State of Illinois, making sure all of your employees — not only supervisors and managers — are aware of sexual harassment laws is no longer optional.
A new law signed by the governor in August 2019 requires employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training to every employee every year. Illinois is now one of six states with laws that mandate training for all employees.
Part of a series of amendments known as Senate Bill 75 (now Public Act 101-0221) aimed at curbing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, the act strengthens the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), and creates the Workplace Transparency Act (WTA) and Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act. The new laws affect businesses of all sizes and add several new employer responsibilities, such as reporting incidents of sexual harassment to the state and protecting victims’ rights.
The act, which goes into effect January 1, 2020, also expands employer liability for sexual harassment prevention to include non-employees, such as contractors, and has specific requirements for owners of bars, hotels, restaurants and casinos. You can be fined for failing to comply with the training and reporting requirements.
Annual Training for All Employees
Under the new law, you have until January 1, 2021, to train all employees on sexual harassment prevention. You will need to repeat the training for all employees — both existing and new hires — annually. As a best practice, keep a record of all sexual harassment training offered, along with signed completion certificates.
Because the new law extends protections to non-employees — including contractors, freelancers, subcontractors, vendors and consultants — you should plan to offer sexual harassment training to everyone who works for you, regardless of employment status. That includes employees who work in Illinois even if your company isn’t based there.
In addition, if you own a bar or restaurant, you must make sure new employees receive your sexual harassment policy in writing and provide sexual harassment training during their first week of employment. The training must cover specific topics not required in other industries, such as an explanation of manager liability and legal responsibilities, and be available in both English and Spanish.
If you own a hotel or casino, the law requires you to adopt specific sexual harassment policy language and outline internal complaint procedures. It also requires you to provide panic buttons to certain employees who work in secluded areas.
What Should the Training Cover?
The training you offer should explain your workplace sexual harassment policy, describe how to report incidents, and let employees know that retaliation against anyone who files a complaint is illegal. Also, let employees who witness sexual harassment know how to report it and clearly state that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct.
Specifically, your training must include:
- An explanation of sexual harassment
- Examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment
- A summary of relevant federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
- A summary of responsibilities of employers in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment
The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) will be developing a model training program, as required by the new law, but hasn’t yet announced when it will be available.
[Smart Tip] Illinois is one of six states with laws that mandate sexual harassment training for all employees.
Illinois Sexual Harassment Training at a Glance
- The sexual harassment training requirements apply to all employers in Illinois — regardless of size.
- You have until January 1, 2021 to provide training to all employees
- Training must be repeated every year.
- The law applies to non-employees (contractors) too, so train everyone who works for you.
- You are liable for harassment by managerial and supervisory employees if you fail to take corrective measures when notified of incidents.
- Sexual harassment training can be provided by outside vendors.