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New Illinois Harassment Training Laws Set to Take Effect on January 1, 2020

On August 9, 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Workplace Transparency Act ("SB 75" or "the Act"). In addition to requiring employers to provide its employees with annual sexual harassment trainings, SB 75 also effectively amends the Illinois Human Rights Act. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, employees are protected from discrimination and harassment based upon protected characteristics. SB 75 effectively adds on to that. One of the more notable changes is that this Act makes employer-imposed agreements to arbitrate claims or to maintain confidentiality of unlawful practices (up to and including violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or any other related State or federal rule or law that is enforced by the Illinois Department of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) as a condition of employment or continued employment as unlawful and void as a matter of public policy. In addition, for settlement or termination agreements requiring confidentiality, those employees must be given the opportunity to review and revoke an agreement and be allowed to ensure that the agreement is mutually beneficial for both the employer and employee.

Similarly, beginning on July 1, 2020, and continuing every year thereafter, SB 75 also requires that the employer disclose to the Illinois Department of Human Rights any final judgment or administrative ruling against it in the preceding calendar year. Employers must disclose to the Illinois Department of Human Rights the following:

(1) the total number of adverse judgments and/or administrative rulings during the preceding calendar year;
(2) whether any equitable relief was ordered against the employer in the any adverse judgment or administrative ruling; and
(3) how many of those adverse judgments and/or administrative rulings were due to unlawful harassment or discrimination (including sexual harassment).

If the employer fails to report or make any required disclosures, the employer could be liable for an entry of a civil monetary penalty against it for each violation. This civil monetary penalty depends on the number of employees the employer has and can range from $500 and up to, and including, $5,000 for each violation.

Moreover, SB 75 requires all employers to implement a yearly sexual harassment prevention training to ensure the workplace is safe for employees to report concerns about sexual harassment without fear of retaliation. This training applies to all employers with one or more employees in Illinois. This training program, at a minimum, must include the following:

(1) an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with the definitions implemented in SB 75 and the Illinois Human Rights Act;
(2) examples of conduct that constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
(3) a summary of relevant federal and State statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, including the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and
(4) a summary of the employer's responsibilities in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.

If the employer fails to comply with the sexual harassment prevention training requirements as outlined by the Act, the employer could be liable for an entry of a civil monetary penalty against it up to, and including, $5,000 for each violation. Thus, it is important that employers begin formulating their training schedules early in the year to ensure compliance with the requirements of SB 75. Our experienced employment attorneys can assist employers and businesses with preparation of this mandatory training and other requirements for employers and businesses under the laws.