Chicago Employers Get Ready: New Harassment and Bystander Training Obligations Among Key Changes to Chicago Human Rights Ordinance

By Tracey Truesdale and William Pokorny - Franczek P.C.

June 3, 2022

On April 27, 2022, the Chicago City Council approved several substantive amendments to the sexual harassment provisions of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance. The amendments impose new and expanded harassment training obligations for all employers operating in the City of Chicago. The key changes implemented by the City Council are outlined below.

“Sexual Harassment” Broadened to Include Sexual Misconduct

The April amendments expand the definition of sexual harassment to explicitly include sexual misconduct, which is defined as “any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position”. This definition change takes effect June 4, 2022.

The new definition of sexual harassment now reads as follows:

“Sexual harassment” means any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature;  (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.

Written Policy and Posting Requirements

As of July 1, 2022, Chicago employers must have a written policy on sexual harassment and post a notice of employee rights in both English and Spanish.
While most employers already have written harassment policies in place, the Ordinance specifies that to be compliant, an employer’s written policy must include the following elements:
•    A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago;
•    The new definition of sexual harassment, which includes sexual misconduct as described above;
•    A requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually, specifying that:
    o    All employees shall participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training and one hour of bystander training annually; and
    o    Supervisors and managers shall participate in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually;
•    Details on how an individual 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, the employer’s corporate headquarters, Human Resources, or other internal reporting mechanism;
•    Details on legal services, including governmental, 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 Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR) will make a model sexual harassment policy as well as the required posters available on its website by July 1, 2022. In addition to English and Spanish versions of the poster, both of which employers will be required to display, CCHR will make the poster available in Polish, Chinese, Arabic and Hindi.

Expanded Annual Training Obligations for Chicago Employers

As of July 1, 2022, all employers must provide the following sexual harassment training annually to employees:
•    One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees;
•    Two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers; and
•    One hour of bystander training for all employees.

The CCHR’s website indicates that the sexual harassment training module available through the Illinois Department of Human Rights satisfies the one-hour harassment prevention training requirement for all employees. Training modules to meet the new supervisory and bystander training requirements will be made available on the CCHR website by July 1, 2022. Notably, the April amendments to the Ordinance do not define what constitutes “bystander” training, but we expect that such training will include strategies for coworkers to recognize and intervene in harassment situations that they witness in the workplace.

365 Days to File a CCHR Charge

Victims will now have 365 days, rather than 300 days, to report all forms of discriminatory practice, including sexual harassment. This change goes into effect on June 4, 2022.

Increased Penalties for Violations

The amendments increase the penalties for all forms of discrimination (not just sexual harassment) from the previous $500-$1,000 per violation to $5,000 – $10,000. This penalty structure applies not only to employers, but also to individuals who are found to have violated the Ordinance. The increased penalties take effect June 4, 2022.

Key Takeaways

Again, while most Illinois employers have written harassment policies and provide annual training under the Illinois Human Rights Act, Chicago employers will need to take the following additional actions over and above those required under Illinois state law:
•    By July 1, 2022, review and revise their harassment policies to include all of the elements described above, including in particular the new definition of sexual harassment, the specific annual training requirements and the legal services available to victims of harassment;
•    By July 1, 2022, post the required English and Spanish notices once made available by the CCHR.
•    By June 30, 2023, provide the first round of annual sexual harassment prevention training and bystander training for all employees (one hour each);
•    By June 30, 2023, provide the first round of annual sexual harassment training for managers and supervisors (two hours); and
•    Maintain records of compliance with the ordinance, including training records and records showing that the required polices and notices were provided to employees.

Franczek P.C. Can Assist Employers

Clients with questions about the amendments’ requirements and the new training obligations should contact Tracey Truesdale or the Franczek attorney with whom they regularly work.

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