Workplace sexual harassment laws in Illinois will soon be much more stringent. The governor on Aug. 9 signed legislation that has sweeping consequences for employers.
Most of the new laws go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, following a growing trend of bills passed in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The legislation in Illinois includes several new measures aimed at curbing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace:
- Changes to employee contracts that protect against sexual harassment claims
- Strengthened ability for workers to report allegations
- Additional state agency oversight
- Sexual harassment training requirements
- “Panic buttons” for certain hotel and casino employees (July 1, 2020, effective date)
- Supplemental training for bar and restaurant workers
- Permits contract employees to bring harassment claims
These are just some of the new requirements employers in Illinois must prepare for, in addition to enhanced training, rights and processes in the state government itself.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the state of Illinois,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement. “Ending the culture of sexism and sexual harassment in workplaces across our state takes a comprehensive approach, and I’m proud that this bi-partisan unanimously-passed legislation — led by Senator Melinda Bush and Representative Ann Williams — strengthens workplace protections to hold abusers and enablers accountable. This commonsense law makes it clear that the days of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment in the workplace are over.”
Starting July 1, 2020, employers must report to the Illinois Department of Human Rights the number of adverse judgments or administrative rulings involving sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination on a yearly basis.
The reporting must also include the type of harassment — sex, race, age, gender, etc.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights will create a sexual harassment prevention training program for employers. All businesses must provide annual training to employees. Failure to do so could result in fines up $5,000 per offense.
Additionally, supplemental training must be provided to restaurant and bar workers, as well as giving new employees a sexual harassment policy within a week of their start date.
The Workplace Transparency Act, a major component of the new legislation, limits a business’ ability to unilaterally create contracts that prevent employees from coming forward with potential sexual harassment claims.
Meanwhile, the bill prevents employers from disclosing the name of an alleged sexual harassment victim in future proceedings.
Several states have expanded their sexual harassment laws of late, including California, New York and Connecticut. It’s incumbent upon employers to monitor potential unlawful behavior and maintain training procedures.