Illinois Sexual Harassment Training: Everything You Should Know

Illinois sexual harassment training is an initiative by the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) requiring employers to offer sexual harassment prevention training to their employees working in the state. Under the Public Act 101-0221, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) developed and released a model training program in 2019, requiring employers to train all their employees by December 31, 2020, and annually thereafter. Expect to encounter sexual harassment training in Illinois due to SB0075 or the Workplace Transparency Act (WTA) which mandates employers to train all employees, regardless of whether they are short-term, part-time, full-time, or interns.

Besides the standard training requirement, the IDHR requires restaurants and bars to create and distribute written sexual harassment policies and provide extra training. The employees should receive the policy manual within the first week of employment. Restaurants include cafeterias, coffee shops, sandwich stands, and catering facilities. Bars include nightclubs, taverns, adult entertainment facilities, and cocktail lounges. The training aims to demonstrate that applicable and accessible education can effectively combat sexual harassment in workplaces, especially when done as a joint effort by both employers and employees.

An Outline of What It Covers

Employers in the state of Illinois can develop their training programs, but they should meet or exceed the following minimum standards outlined by the IHRA model program.

Sexual Harassment Definition

According to the IHRA, sexual harassment can occur as requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, or explicit sexual conduct. Although women are the victims of most sexual abuse cases, some men also fall prey, and perpetrators can be male or female. In Illinois, sexual harassment can be a criminal issue when it involves threats, stalking, or sexual assault. The IHRA also prohibits harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Quid pro quo (this for that) is a kind of sexual harassment whereby employers make hiring or firing decisions based on sexual discrimination, ensuing from submission or rejection of sexual advances or requests.

Sexual harassment can create an offensive, humiliating, or intimidating work environment that interferes with employee job performance. The behavior can be verbal, written, or physical without escalating to sexual assault.

Examples of Unlawful Sexual Conduct

Harassment can occur in the office or outside the workplace, on online platforms, and in corporate social outings in various forms, such as:

  • Repeatedly asking a colleague for a date, despite the person always refusing, consequently causing a hostile work environment
  • Making unwanted sexual advances to a colleague, even if you were involved in an intimate relationship that ended
  • Making compliments about a colleague’s attire or appearance while remarking about physical attributes or referencing private parts
  • Denying promotion to a qualified candidate mainly because the person refused to offer sexual favors in exchange for the job opportunity
  • Showing pornographic content to fellow employees or making uncomfortable comments about pornography, thereby causing a hostile work environment
  • Telling dirty jokes that other colleagues deem offensive or inappropriate

The Illinois sexual harassment training offers the participants the essential knowledge required to identify even the most subtle forms of sexual misconduct that may otherwise go unpunished.

Federal and State Requirements

The training program should offer a summary of all relevant legal conditions and remedies for sexual harassment victims. Employees should learn all options for reporting sexual harassment cases, including the helpline information for the IDHR, the Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Helpline, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Employer Duties

The new requirements for employers cover preventing, investigating, and implementing corrective measures for sexual harassment allegations. The training explains where liability lies when harassment is done by supervisors versus when the sexual harassment perpetrator is a colleague or a nonemployee. Employers are liable when supervisors are guilty of the misconduct. Still, liability for harassment by colleagues and nonemployees depends on whether the management was aware of the allegations and its subsequent failure to take the appropriate steps.

Some proactive measures employers should take to educate employees and protect themselves include:

  • Ensuring each employee receives a copy of the anti-discrimination and harassment policy
  • Providing sexual harassment prevention training to employees once every year as per Illinois law
  • Setting procedures in place for employees to follow when they are victims of harassment
  • Ensuring all reports are taken seriously and immediate action is taken to investigate all complaints accurately
  • Taking corrective measures when the investigation reveals that sexual harassment was evident

Federal laws protect people who file sexual harassment claims from retaliation by employers. Employers are liable when they force employees to quit their jobs or deny them promotions because of filing such a claim.

Where You Can Encounter The Training

The “MeToo” movement has brought about drastic changes in many states as more employers seek to prevent harassment. It is your employer’s duty to decide the exact time and place to offer the training.

There are specific circumstances to expect the training, including:

  • When working for an employer with more than one employee
  • When planning to work in Illinois, regardless of whether your employer is based in the state
  • When you regularly interact with colleagues in Illinois even though you are based out of state
  • When you are an independent contractor working on-site an employer’s office

Employers should provide additional training when making new hires. They should retain the training records and may ask prospective employees to provide documentation as proof of completing Illinois sexual harassment training elsewhere. If new employees cannot provide proper documentation, employers can request them to retake the program, regardless of whether they already did at their prior employment places.

Third-Party Vendors

Employers can use a reliable third-party organization to deliver the existing IDHR training program to employees on-site or create and distribute training materials that adhere to the IDHR’s standards. Before training, employers should review all training materials to ensure they meet the minimum standards.

Professional trainers can be effective because they are:

  • Knowledgeable in dealing with discrimination issues in workplaces, including sexual harassment
  • Interactive and allow participants to understand the content and get answers to their queries
  • Specialists in customizing programs according to information that is specific to the employer’s workplace

Employers should conduct adequate research to ensure the vendors they choose are accredited by the IDHR to offer the Illinois sexual harassment training.

Online Training

Online sexual harassment training is convenient and applicable to a majority of workplaces. Employers can offer this form of training for employees to undertake using a phone, tablet, or laptop as long as the program:

  • Complies with the relevant laws and regulations in the state of Illinois
  • Provides users with the opportunity to ask questions and offer answers to those questions within a business day
  • Stays updated with any legal changes at no additional cost
  • Uses progressive teaching design principles
  • Efficiently tracks the participation progress of all employees, automatically noting those who complete and those who are yet to complete training

The IDHR expects the training to occur during regular hours. If an employer requests you to take it outside working hours and on your personal computer or phone, you can receive remuneration for the overtime.

Some common forms of harassment in workplaces that the Illinois sexual harassment training covers include deliberate touching, cornering, romantic involvement, and demanding sexual favors. Employees working in multiple jobs are only required to take the training once. The material should be available in an accessible manner to everyone, including people with disabilities or those who speak other languages than English.

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Impactly’s online sexual harassment and diversity, equity & inclusion training packages are used by hundreds of organizations across the country. Impactly is powered by Get Inclusive, one of the largest providers of prevention and compliance training for colleges and universities.