Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 05/07/2020

Illinois Department of Human Rights Releases Model Sexual Harassment Training and Guidance

The Illinois Workplace Transparency Act (Public Act 101-0221) (WTA), signed into law on Aug. 9, 2019, requires that every employer with at least one employee working in Illinois must provide annual sexual harassment prevention training. The WTA also instructed the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to make available a model sexual harassment program for employers at no cost. 

On April 28, 2020, IDHR released its anticipated model training program (the “Model”) that employers can use to meet their sexual harassment training obligations under the WTA. Accompanying the Model is guidance on implementing such training. This guidance is in the form of frequently-asked-questions and the IDHR’s corresponding answers. 

Guidance/Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The IDHR’s guidance provides the following information regarding WTA-required sexual harassment training:

General Requirements

  • Training must be completed by Dec. 31 of each year.
  • All employees regardless of status (e.g., intern, seasonal) must be trained, but contractors are excluded from the training requirement.
  • Training may occur outside working hours, including on employee laptops and phones, but employees must be compensated for that time.
  • Employers need not retrain employees who received sexual harassment training earlier in the year but must maintain records of the prior training and ensure it complies with IDHR requirements.
  • Even employees working out of state for an out-of-state employer must be trained if they regularly interact with other employees working in Illinois for the out-of-state employer.
  • Employer-created and third-party training is allowed but must cover the training standards outlined in Section 2-109(B) of the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), including:
    • An explanation of sexual harassment under the IHRA;
    • Examples of sexual harassment;
    • A summary of sexual harassment statutes including victims’ remedies; and
    • A summary of employer responsibilities in prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.
  • Employers must train new hires as soon as possible and no later than Dec. 31.
  • Training must be accessible to disabled employees and in different languages as needed.
  • Failure to provide training is a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Restaurants and Bars

Restaurants and bars must provide training supplemental to the requirements for other employers. Those requirements include:

  • Specific conduct, activities, or videos related to the restaurant or bar industry;
  • An explanation of manager liability and responsibility under the law; and
  • English and Spanish language options must be offered. 

Restaurants and bars must also establish a written sexual harassment policy in English and Spanish and provide copies to employees in the first week of their employment. The policy must include:

  • A prohibition on sexual harassment;
  • Definitions of sexual harassment per the IHRA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Details on how an individual can report allegations of sexual harassment internally;
  • An explanation of the internal complaint process available to employees;
  • How to file a charge with the IDHR and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
  • A prohibition on retaliation for reporting sexual harassment allegations; and
  • A requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training.

Highlights of the Model Training

The Model is in a slideshow format and consists of 35 slides, divided into four topics, mirroring the requirements for the Model under the IHRA:

  1. An explanation of sexual harassment, consistent with the IHRA;
  2. Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment;
  3. Summary of federal and state laws regarding sexual harassment including victim remedies; and
  4. Summary of employer responsibilities in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.

The Model provides details of conduct that constitutes sexual harassment, the roles of perpetrators and victims, and the roles and responsibilities of employers including officers and supervisors. It also provides details on how employees can report sexual harassment occurring at the workplace including contact information, instructions, and procedures for reporting.

The Model includes a certification of participation in sexual harassment training, which requires identification of the training date and “training method.” In conjunction with the guidance that training may be held on an employee’s laptop or phone, it appears the “training method” is technologically flexible. This is particularly helpful for employers given in-person limitations during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we suggest the following practical steps to ensure employees have an opportunity to review the entire Model before signing the certification:

  • If possible, conduct the training in a group format, such as with video conferencing, where each slide is shown to attendees. Ensure each employee’s attendance is recorded.
  • If group or other “live” training is not feasible, use technology that records that an employee has viewed the entire Model.
  • Provide each employee with a copy of the Model, and/or provide the link to the Model where electronic copies can be accessed.

Taft’s Employment and Labor Relations group can guide your business through these new requirements, including sexual harassment training tailored to your industry needs.

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