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Illinois Requiring Small Businesses Train Employees On Sexual Harassment

Updated on
November 18, 2020
Article written by
Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss a recent amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act requiring all businesses to have a formal sexual harassment training program. We will answer the following questions:


  • What requirements are outlined in the amendment?
  • Does the amendment cover all employers and employees?
  • What happens if an employer fails to provide sexual harassment training?


Many large companies have robust sexual harassment training programs in place, but small businesses sometimes fail to handle this sensitive subject. A limited or non-existent sexual harassment training program won’t be an option for any business in Illinois come 2021. An amendment under the Illinois Human Rights Act requires that all companies have a baseline sexual harassment training program that meets specific criteria. Failure to develop and implement an adequate program will jeopardize compliance with Public Act 101-0221.


What Requirements Are Outlined In The Amendment?


Employer’s programs can be developed internally or with assistance from an outside third party. The Illinois Department of Human Rights created a model training program that employers can use as a guide when developing their own. Some of the requirements described in the amendment include:


  • A detailed explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment;
  • A detailed summary of state and federal statues describing what remedies victims of sexual harassment can seek;
  • A detailed overview of what resources employers and employees need to prevent and investigate claims and secure redress for those involved; and
  • Clear examples of what constitutes a sexual harassment violation under Illinois law.


Other sexual harassment training requirements include:


  • Training but be accessible to non-native English speaking and disabled employees;
  • Hourly employees receive compensation for time spent in training;
  • Employees of Illinois based companies that work out of state and employees working a significant amount of time in Illinois still require sexual harassment training according to the new amendment; and
  • Restaurants and bars require “supplemental training,” as described in the Illinois Human Rights act.


Does The Amendment Cover All Employers And Employees?


The requirements laid out in the amendment covers all employers with one or more employee, including full-time, part-time, and temporary employees and interns. Independent contractors are not legally required to receive training, but the Illinois Department of Human Rights strongly discourages excluding ICs if they are regularly on site. 


Employers must retain a digital or physical log of who has completed training. Evidence showing training completion can be as simple as a sign-in sheet with each employee’s name and signature or a more detailed employee affidavit.


New employees don’t require training in the same year if they were trained at their previous company. However, it is suggested that the employee obtain a copy of their signed document showing they completed training.


What Happens If An Employer Fails To Provide Sexual Harassment Training?


According to the new guidelines, employers that fail to provide adequate training before the years end will violate Illinois Public Act 101-0221. Violations can result in fines to the business, suspension, termination of licenses, and business closure. Furthermore, suppose a sexual harassment claim comes against the business, and it’s found that the firm failed to provide sexual harassment training. In that case, the company will have little to protect itself in court against liability. According to the new amendment, employees must complete sexual harassment training once each year.


Illinois Requiring Small Businesses Train Employees On Sexual Harassment
Author

Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

Kevin O’Flaherty is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has experience in litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and comprehensive business representation.

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