Deadlines for Chicago Employers: Amendments to Sexual Harassment Laws Impose New Guidelines and Requirements

June 17, 2022

Deadlines for Chicago Employers: Amendments to Sexual Harassment Laws Impose New Guidelines and Requirements

On April 27, 2022, Chicago City Council approved amendments to the sexual harassment provisions of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, which go into effect on July 1, 2022.  Accordingly, Chicago-based employers have a quickly approaching deadline to implement these amendments, which include an expansion of the definitions of sexual harassment, and require additional employee training, among other things.

New Definitions

The first of the implemented amendments went into effect on June 4, 2022, broadening the term “sexual harassment” to now include sexual misconduct and redefining the term “sexual orientation.” Expanding the definition of “sexual harassment” means that all sexual misconduct will now be covered under this provision of the ordinance. Importantly, sexual misconduct is defined as “any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.” According to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Commission on Human Relations, this amendment makes the city’s sexual harassment laws stronger to “uphold zero tolerance of violence and harassment in the workplace.” The amended definition of “sexual orientation” now reads as “a person’s actual or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person.” Chicago based employers should be aware of these changes in definitions and note the date of implementation, as the amended language went into effect at the beginning of the month.

Training Obligations

Employers should be aware of the amendment’s new employee training requirements as well. Importantly, Chicago employers must require that employees participate in mandatory training surrounding sexual harassment prevention. Specifically, employees must take part in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually. Additionally, anyone who supervises or manages employees must complete at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention training on a yearly basis. Finally, all employees must also complete one hour of bystander training each year. Employers may refer to the Illinois Department of Human Rights’ sexual-harassment-prevention training program as a guide. Alternatively, employers have the option of developing their own training, though such a program must meet the minimum requirements imposed by the Illinois Human Rights Act, the standard for sexual harassment prevention training. No similar standard for bystander training is required by the City’s ordinance. Importantly, these training obligations must be published in a written policy that is made available to all employees.

Written Policy

In order to prepare for July 1 deadlines, Chicago employers must be aware of additional requirements. First, employers must publish a written policy on sexual harassment. This policy must include specific elements including (1) a statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago, (2) the new definition of “sexual harassment” to include sexual misconduct, (3) a note that all employees are required to participate in sexual harassment prevention training on an annual basis, (4) the process on how an employee can report allegations of sexual harassment, (5) information on the legal services available to employed victims of sexual harassment, and finally, (6) a declaration that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago. While employers likely have sexual harassment polices already in place, these specific elements must be included and published by July 1 in order to comply with the new amendments to the City’s ordinance. For guidance, employers can look to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ website which has posted a model Sexual Harassment Policy for reference.

Posting Notice

Finally, there are new requirements on how to provide the policy to employees, as well as posting information on sexual harassment prevention. Chicago employers must provide their written sexual harassment policy to employees in their primary language. This must be given to employees within the first calendar week of employment. Examples of model harassment policies in Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi have been posted to the City’s website. Likewise, employers must display a poster advising their employees on sexual harassment and prohibiting such behavior in an open and conspicuous manner. This poster must be displayed in both English and Spanish. Again, the City of Chicago’s website contains examples of these posters. Along with the written policy publication deadline, the posting notice requirements also go into effect beginning July 1, 2022.

These new requirements are in addition to those posed by the State of Illinois.  RFC has assisted employers with updating harassment policies, developing mandatory training programs, and delivering those presentations.  We welcome the opportunity to assist your organization in these matters.

If you have question or concerns regarding implementation of these new amendments to the sexual harassment provisions of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, please contact the attorneys at Rock Fusco & Connelly.