Illinois Harassment Prevention Law Requires Annual Training

As of January 1, 2020, all Illinois employers are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to their employees every year, 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 changing workplace culture.

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, to expand protections for independent contractors and employees who are perceived to be members of a protected class, among other mandates.

Illinois Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

Illinois employers will have until January 2, 2021 to train all employees on harassment prevention.  The Act requires specific content be included in 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 when the program will be made available to the public.

Harassment Prevention Mandates for Illinois 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 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 must distribute a harassment prevention policy to all employees 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 hotels 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.

Illinois Independent Contractor Harassment Protections Expanded

SB 75 also expands harassment protections to independent contractors. The new law amends the Illinois Human Relations Act to include protections from harassment for independent contractors, previously excluded. This component of the new law makes it clear that the state expects organizations to create a safe and inclusive workplace for everyone—regardless of employment status. This is especially important given that many of today’s workplaces include a significant number of independent contractors and freelancers who participate in organizational activities for extended periods of time, and who have daily contact with the organization’s employees. Employers will need to train all independent contractors and freelancers in addition to company employees.

With this new legislation, Illinois joins the growing ranks of state legislatures who are providing important guidance to organizations doing business in the state. Like California, New York, and others, the state of Illinois is making its expectations clear—all workers in their state should not only be protected from the damage done by harassment, but should be free to work in an environment that is healthy, inclusive, and safe.

Need help understanding the provisions of the new Illinois Workplace Transparency Act and what is required for compliant and effective sexual harassment training? Contact us.

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Janine Yancey
Emtrain Founder & CEO Employment Law Expert
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