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Sexual Harassment Training Now Mandatory for Illinois Employers

Illinois recently joined the growing number of states that require employers to provide mandatory sexual harassment training. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New York, and Washington, D.C. are all jurisdictions that require employees and managers be trained on the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace.

In August 2019, Illinois passed an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) into law. The new law requires that all Illinois employers, regardless of size or how many employees they have, provide mandatory sexual harassment training to all Illinois employees on an annual basis. This law comes in addition to existing IHRA regulations that require workplace poster and employee handbook notice provisions concerning employees’ rights against sexual harassment.

This law went into effect on January 1, 2020 and requires all Illinois employers to establish a sexual harassment prevention training program that meets specific statutory requirements. See 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-109 (2019). At a minimum, the training must: 

  1. Explain what constitutes sexual harassment;
  2. Provide examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
  3. Summarize federal and state law concerning sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims; and
  4. Summarize employers’ responsibilities to prevent, investigate, and correct sexual harassment.

The law imposes additional training requirements on employers in the bar, restaurant, casino, and hotel industries. Employers who fail to provide the mandatory training may be fined by the IDHR. Additionally, employers who fail to properly train employees and managers on the company’s sexual harassment policy and procedures may expose themselves to greater legal liability in the event of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

In order to fulfill the new training requirement, employers can either establish their own sexual harassment prevention training program that complies with the minimum requirements set forth above, or use the Illinois Department of Human Rights’ (IDHR) model training program once it is available for free online. Whichever option an employer chooses, it must provide the first training to all employees by December 31, 2020, and then re-administer the training annually.

Although many employers already offer some degree of sexual harassment training, this new Illinois mandate tightens focus on prevention. With deterrence now at the forefront of the sex discrimination dialogue, all employers may want to consider proactively implementing sexual harassment prevention training similar to that required in Illinois. Employers on the Wisconsin-Illinois border and employers with at least one employee working in Illinois, including remote employees, should consult with legal counsel to ensure continued compliance with Illinois law. 

DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general informational purposes only. This post is not updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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