Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, all employees have the right to employment that is free from unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment. Beginning in January, 2020, employers will have new obligations to keep sexual harassment out of the workplace. One of the biggest changes is a new requirement that employers provide sexual harassment training to all employees every year.
The Workplace Transparency Act (Senate Bill 75), which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that applies to all Illinois employers.
Among its training requirements:
- All Illinois employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training to employees and supervisors on an annual basis.
- Bars and restaurants must provide employees with sexual harassment training that is tailored to the bar and restaurant industry and a written sexual harassment policy in both English and Spanish.
- Training must be interactive and meet or exceed the model training standards to be developed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights model (not yet available).
Further, training should be interactive and at a minimum include:
- A definition of sexual harassment
- Examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment
- An explanation of harassment based on sex
- Examples of conduct that constitutes harassment based on sex
- A summary of federal and state laws prohibiting sexual harassment, harassment based on sex, and all remedies available to targets of sexual harassment or harassment based on sex
- A summary of employees’ rights and available remedies and forums to adjudicate complaints
- Examples of appropriate and inappropriate conduct by supervisors
- A summary of employers’ responsibilities to prevent, investigate and adjudicate sexual harassment
Responsibilities of managers and supervisors
Training should also explain the responsibilities of managers and supervisors to stop sexual harassment. Responsibilities include:
- Refraining from engaging in sexual harassment or discrimination
- Setting an example of respectful workplace behavior
- Taking all complaints seriously and report them to the designated person
- Responding appropriately to any observed misconduct and reporting it
- Never retaliating against anyone for making a good-faith report or providing information
- Addressing and reporting retaliation
Going beyond the checklist
Besides covering the required topics, employers should consider other elements to make the training experience more effective and relevant, such as realistic video scenarios, industry-specific examples and images, and quizzes, challenges and other eLearning activities to increase engagement and promote positive behaviors. Given the growing number of remote workers, online training that is mobile optimized offers greater flexibility and efficiency in when and how employees access training.
Effective sexual harassment training should also cover topics such as bystander intervention, diversity and inclusion, and unconscious bias. These interrelated topics can help improve workplace culture by raising awareness of personal biases and teaching employees how to safely stop misconduct before it rises to the level of unlawful harassment.
Illinois is the latest state to enact new laws aimed at combating sexual harassment in the workplace, joining New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware and Maine. Under the Workplace Transparency Act, which goes into effect in January, 2020, all Illinois employers— both public and private — must provide sexual harassment training to all employees annually. Employers in the restaurant and bar industry must tailor their sexual harassment training and policies to their unique working environment.