May 17, 2023

As the June 30 training deadline nears, Chicago businesses should be aware of what they need to do to meet the city’s new requirements.

With the goal of increasing safety for Chicago employees and preventing workplace harassment and violence, Chicago’s city council passed an ordinance last year that expanded the definition of sexual harassment and set new training requirements for employers that go beyond those of the state of Illinois. 

Chicago employers have until June 30 to complete the first round of annual training. Outlined by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, requirements include:   

  • One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees. 
  • One hour of bystander intervention training for all employees. 
  • Two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for managers and supervisors, including managers who are located outside of Chicago but supervise employees based in Chicago. 

That adds up to three hours of annual training for managers and supervisors and two hours for employees — including short-term, part-time and interns. Independent contractors working on-site should also receive sexual harassment prevention training.

Other changes

Under the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, the definition of sexual harassment now includes sexual misconduct, which means, “any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.”   

Every Chicago employer must also: 

  • Have a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment and provide it to new employees in their primary language within the first calendar week of employment.  
  • Display posters prohibiting sexual harassment. 
  • Keep training records for at least 5 years. 

Penalties increased, too, from $500 – $1,000 per violation to $5,000 – $10,000. Fines can add up each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate event. 

Make training more than a check-the-box exercise

As part of a multidimensional, year-round approach to preventing workplace harassment, here are some best practices that go beyond the requirements to motivate real behavior change.  

Sexual harassment training – behavior-based approach increases effectiveness 

  • To keep employees engaged in learning about this important topic, ensure the training content and design is relevant and relatable. Behavior-based training immerses employees in real-world scenarios, using interactivity and other eLearning techniques to create an active learning experience and motivate the right behaviors that employees can apply inside and outside of the workplace.   
  • Raise awareness of the different types of inappropriate behaviors. There are many subtle forms of harassing behaviors that can occur in-person and online, in the form of inappropriate comments and images via email, texting, live chats, team calls and social media. 
  • Workplace experts agree that tailoring training to your unique organization and workplace makes it a more effective tool in addressing and preventing workplace harassment. The more relatable to employees’ work experiences, the more likely they are to actively engage in the training and retain and apply it.     
  • Reinforce the message to managers about their added responsibility to avoid all forms of retaliation against employees who report sexual harassment or participate in an investigation and ensure that non-supervisory employees don’t engage in retaliatory behavior.  

Bystander intervention training – an important dimension to prevention  
Providing bystander intervention training to all employees is a new mandate for Chicago employers that isn’t included in the state of Illinois’ annual sexual harassment training requirements.  

The city of Chicago describes bystander intervention as, “safe and positive actions that may be carried out by a person, or a group of people to prevent harm or intervene where there is a risk or perceived risk of sexual harassment to another.” 

Effective bystander intervention training should: 

  • Explain the role of bystanders in preventing harassment and discrimination and the benefits to the individuals involved and to the overall organization in creating a safe, respectful work culture. 
  •  Explore the reasons people may be reluctant to act if they see misconduct. Learning about the bystander effect why people in a group feel less motivated to do or say something when they witness an incident helps employees understand why their personal action matters.  
  • Use realistic scenarios to demonstrate different options that employees can use to act safely and emphasize the need to exercise good judgment in deciding when or how to respond. While each situation is different, among the techniques for bystander intervention are to disrupt, confront, support and report.  
    • A bystander can disrupt and defuse a potentially harmful situation by simply changing the subject and the mood.  
    • If it won’t escalate the situation or put anyone’s safety at risk, bystanders can ‘confront’ a harasser by speaking in a respectful way after the incident about their inappropriate behavior and its effects.  
    • Expressing support, in the moment or afterwards, is a powerful way to be an active bystander and share responsibility for speaking up against unwelcome conduct.  
    • Whether it’s using an anonymous hotline or speaking with HR, a manager or other designated individual, encouraging employees to report harassment is key to prevention.

Traliant Training

Traliant’s Chicago Edition of Preventing Discrimination & Harassment and Bystander Intervention is designed to meet the city’s annual training requirements for all employees. Sign up for a free trial today.



Maggie Smith