COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Illinois Requiring Employee Training on Sexual Harassment Prevention

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State Requires Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

If you’re a small business owner and you haven’t trained your employees on sexual harassment prevention, you have until December 31 to stay in compliance with Public Act 101-0221, which amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to require such training this year and every year hereafter.

This recent law mandated that the Illinois Department of Human Rights put together a model training program for sexual harassment prevention, which the department has made publicly available to employers online.

Employers’ programs must meet or surpass the baseline standards set forth in the amendment, and they can be developed either internally or with a hired outside third party, as long as they cover all the requirements.

Those include: an explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment, examples of unlawful conduct that meets the definition, a synopsis of state and federal statutes touching on the redress that victims can seek, and a synopsis of what employers need to do to prevent, investigate and provide redress to those impacted.

The amendment applies to employers with as few as one employee and regardless of whether they are temporary, part-time or even interns. Independent contractors are not required to be trained, although the department recommends this if they are going to be on site. Employers must keep records of such trainings and who participated, which can just be a course sign-in worksheet, or a signed employee affidavit, and can be physical or electronic.

If a new employee has been trained earlier that same year at another employer, you don’t necessarily need to train them again until the following year, although the state would still encourage this. And if you don’t, you need to obtain and have available documentation that they have completed training elsewhere that meets the requirements.

Other details of the training requirements include:

  • Out-of-state employers must train any employees based in Illinois, and employees based out of state should be trained if they are in regular contact with colleagues in Illinois.
  • Training must be accessible to the disabled and provided in native languages for those who do not speak English.
  • Hourly employees must be paid if training occurs outside their regular hours.
  • Restaurants and bars must provide additional “supplemental training” as laid out in the Illinois Human Rights Act, along with the baseline training for everyone else, as well as formulating and disseminating a written policy on sexual harassment prevention.

Employers who do not provide the sexual harassment prevention training can be found in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Employees who want to alert state regulators can do so anonymously by calling (312) 814-6278 or filling out a form on the IDHR website.

But as long as you provide training by the end of this year and remember to follow up once a year, you won’t need to worry about being on the receiving end of such a report.  If your business needs additional information on employment law matters, check out our website page on Employment Law for Employers.