Illinois Enacts #MeToo Law Requiring All Employees to Be Trained on Harassment Prevention

Illinois Enacts #MeToo Law Requiring All Employees to Be Trained on Harassment Prevention

The Facts

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Updated article with new provisions and clarification on the Illinois compliance requirements, here>>>

As of January 1, 2020, all Illinois employers are required to provide anti-harassment training to their employees on an annual basis, regardless of the size of the company. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed SB 75, the Workplace Transparency Act into law on August 9, 2019 making Illinois the most recent state to enact #MeToo legislation and focus on corporate cultural change.

Click here for a complete list of state anti-harassment training requirements.

Senator Melinda Bush released a statement on the new law emphasizing the protections are “not just good for workers, it’s good for business…We’re not just changing the law with Senate Bill 75. We are working to change our culture, preventing abuse and discrimination from happening in the first place while empowering victims to come forward when it does.”

The Act amends the Illinois Human Rights Act, expands protections for independent contractors and employees who are perceived to be members of a protected class, among other mandates.

Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

Illinois employers will have until January 2, 2021 to train all employees on harassment prevention. The Act requires specific content to be included during the training, as is required in a number of other states with training mandates.

Specifically, the 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; and
  • a summary of responsibilities of employers in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) will develop a model training program, as required under the new law, but no deadline has been set for the program to be made available to the public

Mandates for Bars, Restaurants, Hotels and Casinos

Owners of bars and restaurants must train their employees on harassment prevention during the employee’s first week of employment. Employees who work in bars and restaurants must receive a training that includes certain topics not required in other sectors, specifically an explanation of manager liability and responsibility under the law. The training must also be made available in both English and Spanish. Employers operating bars and restaurants to distribute an anti-harassment policy to all employees. The distribution must take place during the first week of employment. This requirement is in addition to the specific training requirements described above.

SB 75 also created the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act. This requires all hotel and casinos, regardless of size and broadly defined, to adopt a harassment prevention policy and make panic buttons available to employees who work in isolated environments. These mandates take effect July 1, 2020. The harassment prevention policy must have specific language and provisions directing employees to internal complaint procedures and external resources.

Independent Contractor Protections Expanded

SB 75 expands protections to independent contractors, The new law amends the Illinois Human Relations Act to include protections from harassment for independent contractors, previously excluded. Employers will need to train all independent contractors in addition to company employees.

Additional Provisions

In addition to the training and policy mandates, the new law imposes disclosure requirements on employers. Specifically, employers must disclose to the IDHR the total number of final adverse administrative or judicial decisions involving sexual harassment or discrimination in the previous year, anywhere in the U.S. The disclosures must occur by July 1, 2020 and each July 1 thereafter. Employers must disclose private settlements for matters involving harassment or discrimination.

Other provisions of the law include:

  • Prohibition on union representatives representing both the alleged harasser and the victim in a disciplinary proceeding.
  • Explicit prohibition for discrimination based on perceived membership in a protected class, even if they factually are not in a protected class.
  • Expands the Victims Economic Security & Safety Act (VESSA) to allow victims of gender violence to take unpaid leave from work to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning and other assistance.
  • Prohibition from use of certain clauses in employment agreements: no restrictions on reporting unlawful or criminal conduct and strict confidentiality in settlements are only valid under limited and specific circumstances.
  • Mandatory arbitration provisions are void if it is a unilateral contingency on employment or continued employment.

Action Items

Employers in Illinois are now subject to a slew of new mandates in order to be compliant with this new state law. Employers should:

  • Review their employment contracts, arbitration agreements, employment agreements, severance and settlement agreements;
  • Ensure their handbooks and policies are up-to-date and include the required content.
  • Identify a scalable method for implementing annual training with required content.
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