Illinois is seeing some big changes to anti-harassment training requirements for employers. Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 75, the Workplace Transparency Act, on August 9th, 2019. This bill amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to add sexual harassment training requirements, in addition to other changes to discrimination laws in the state.
The law is still being formalized by lawmakers, but this is a major accomplishment, as Illinois hasn’t seen laws quite like this ever before. This new bill comes after the Illinois Capitol in Springfield garnered scrutiny and criticism for sexual harassment and related “pervasive behavior,” as state senator Sue Rezin told the Chicago Tribune, particularly within Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office.
The law is also a response to the entire #MeToo movement that picked up in 2017. According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, 15 states have now passed new protections, including approximately 200 bills, which are related to protections against workplace harassment.
As these new regulations are going through the approval process, you’re now tasked as an Illinois employer with following updates and understanding what it means for the way you run your business. Here’s everything you need to know about the new requirements, some of which are still being hashed out.
Annual Training Requirement
The bill outlines that employers must give mandatory annual trainings on the following topics, beginning January 1st, 2020. The comprehensive sexual harassment training program has to include the following information:
- Description and clarification of what sexual harassment is
- Examples of sexual harassment conduct
- Information about government provisions, such as what remedies are available to sexual harassment victims
- Information about the employer’s responsibility to prevent, investigate, and correct sexual harassment
Guidelines for the Service Industry
The bill also outlines requirements for employers in the bar, restaurant, hotel, and casino sectors. Hotels and casinos must offer employees a way to alert security or managers with a portable notification device if they need help, are being harassed, or witness an instance of assault.
Bars and restaurants now must have a policy around sexual harassment that gives employees guidelines on how they can report allegations or file a charge with the state Department of Human Rights. These employers also must offer annual harassment trainings, specific to the industry, in both Spanish and English.
The law also states that employers cannot require their workers to sign nondisclosure agreements or arbitration agreements that are related to harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.
In addition to protections for regular company employees, independent contractors are also protected from harassment and discrimination under the new law. As the gig economy is picking up, this is important, since companies are working with contractors and consultants more now than ever before. An NPR poll last year showed that one in five jobs in America is held by a contract worker.
The bill also sets out requirements for employers and labor organizations to disclose administrative or judicial decisions that are adverse regarding harassment or discrimination in the previous year to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. July 1st, 2020 is the first date of required disclosures, and will be required every July 1 thereafter.
What happens if you fail to comply?
The bill outlines penalties for employers that fail to comply with the new requirements. These include civil penalties of:
- $500 if the company has less than four employees
- $1,000 if the company has more than four employees
Repeat violations could be as much as $5,000 for each instance.
The bottom line is that Illinois may pass legislation that all employers, regardless of their number of employees, must provide sexual harassment training to each and every employee.
Key points to remember about the proposed bill are:
- If the bill is finalized, training programs must be implemented beginning January 1st, 2020.
- There are specific guidelines you must follow as an employer when implementing the harassment trainings, such as disclosing information about what harassment is and steps victims can take to report it.
- Employers that are bars, restaurants, hotels, and casinos have additional guidelines to follow regarding the safety of their employees.
- Employers cannot require workers to sign nondisclosure agreements related to harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.
- Independent contractors are also protected under this law.
- Penalty fees may apply if employers fail to implement the sexual harassment trainings.
Launchways is your trusted resource, always keeping you informed of upcoming changes related to compliance. Once the sexual harassment training requirements are solidified, we will offer a strategic solution to the training requirement.