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Chicago Adopts New Anti-Sexual Harassment Training and Other Obligations for Employers
By Scott Cruz on May 19, 2022 at 2:30 PM

The Chicago City Council recently adopted an ordinance amending the city’s anti-sexual harassment laws. This, among other things, revises the definition of sexual harassment to include sexual misconduct; requires Chicago employers to establish, post and distribute to employees a written anti-sexual harassment policy and display a poster advising employees of the prohibition of sexual harassment; enhances training requirements for employees and managers, including additional training on how bystanders who witness sexual harassment in the workplace should respond; and imposes stricter penalties for violations. The written policy, written notice, and required training components of the ordinance go into effect July 1, 2022.

On July 1, 2022, all employers in the city of Chicago must have a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment. Under the ordinance, an “employer” is defined as “any individual, partnership, association, corporation, limited liability company, business trust, or any person or group of persons that provides employment to one or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year and any agent of such an entity or person.” However, to be considered an “employer” and subject to the ordinance, an “employer” must (1) be subject to Chicago licensing requirements; or (2) maintain a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the city of Chicago limits. Under the ordinance, “employee” is defined as “an individual who is engaged to work within the geographical boundaries of the city of Chicago for or under the direction and control of another for monetary or other valuable consideration.”

The written policy prohibiting sexual harassment must include the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in the city of Chicago;
  • The following definition of sexual harassment: “any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; or (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment; or (iii) sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position”;
  • A requirement that all employees participate in anti-sexual harassment prevention training annually (see below for details);
  • Examples of prohibited conduct that constitutes sexual harassment;
  • Details on how an employee can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including, as appropriate, instructions on how to make a confidential report, with an internal complaint form, to a manager, employer’s corporate headquarters or human resources department, or other internal reporting mechanism;
  • Information on legal services, including governmental agencies, that are available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment; and
  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in the city of Chicago.

The written policy must be made available in the employee’s primary language within the first calendar week of their employment.

On July 1, 2022, all employers will be required to have all their employees participate in the following trainings annually (i.e. by June 30, 2023, and every June 30 thereafter) and for the specified time periods: (a) One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees; (b) two hours of anti-sexual harassment prevention training for all supervisors/managers; and (3) one hour of bystander training for all employees. Bystander intervention training teaches strategies on how onlookers can involve themselves directly and indirectly into harassment incidents to help those being targeted.

Employers also must retain written records of the policies and trainings given to each employee, as well as other records necessary to show compliance with the ordinance. The records must be retained for a period of at least five years or for the duration of any claim, civil action, or investigation pending pursuant to the ordinance, whichever is longer. Failure to maintain the required records creates a presumption (rebuttable only by clear and convincing evidence) that the employer violated the ordinance.

By July 1, 2022, all employers must conspicuously display, in at least one location where employees commonly gather, posters designed by the Chicago Commission on Human Rights discussing prohibitions on sexual harassment. Employers must display at least one poster in English and one in Spanish.

An employer that fails to comply with the mandates related to the information required in the written anti-sexual harassment policy, fails to provide the required trainings and for the time-specified periods, or fails to display the required posters, are subject to fines between $500 and $1,000 for each offense. Every day the violation continues and is not cured constitutes a separate and distinct offense. Other violations of the ordinance will have fines imposed between $5,000 and $10,000 for each offense.

Finally, employees who are victims of any form of discrimination, including sexual harassment, will now have 365 days, instead of 300 days, to file a complaint with the Chicago Commission on Human Rights.

For questions about how this affects you or your business, please contact a member of our Employment & Labor Practice Group.

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