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City of Chicago Expands Sexual Harassment Prevention Obligations for Employers

On April 27, 2022, the City of Chicago Office of the Mayor announced the approval of several enhancements to the city’s sexual harassment laws in the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance. These enhancements are part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Citywide Strategic Plan to address gender-based violence and human trafficking.

Expanding the definition of ‘sexual harassment’ to include sexual misconduct

The definition of “sexual harassment” in the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance is now expanded to explicitly include sexual misconduct, which is defined as “any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.” This definition change takes effect June 4, 2022.

The full definition of “sexual harassment” now “means any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment; or (iii) 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.”

Written policy and written notice requirements for Chicago employers

As of July 1, 2022, Chicago employers must have a written policy on sexual harassment. Additionally, employers must display a poster providing notice and advising of the prohibition on sexual harassment where employees can see it. The written policy must include at least the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
  • The new definition of sexual harassment in Section 6-010-020, as explained above.
  • Examples of prohibited conduct that constitutes sexual harassment.
  • A requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually.
  • A statement detailing the new training requirement that employees shall participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually. Anyone acting in a supervisory or managerial capacity shall participate in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually. All employees shall participate in one hour of bystander training annually.
  • Information and details on:
    • Reporting: How an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including, as appropriate, instructions on how to make a confidential report, with an internal complaint form, to a manager, employer’s corporate headquarters or human resources department, or other internal reporting mechanism; and
    • Legal services: Any legal services, including governmental, available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment.
  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in the city of Chicago.

A model sexual harassment policy and written notice template will be available on the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR) website by July 1, 2022, when the ordinance goes into effect.

Additional annual training requirements for Chicago employees

As of July 1, 2022, all employers must provide the following sexual harassment training annually to employees:

  • One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees (two hours for supervisors and/or managers).
  • One hour of bystander training for all employees.

The current Illinois state training template, which provides one hour of training as required by the Illinois Human Rights Act, is sufficient for the sexual harassment prevention training for employees. Training templates and materials for the additional hour of training and for the bystander training will be available on CCHR’s website to download by July 1, 2022, when the ordinance goes into effect.

Increasing the statute of limitations

Victims will now have 365 days, rather than 300 days, to report all forms of discriminatory practice, including sexual harassment. This change goes into effect on June 4, 2022.

Increasing penalties for violations

The ordinance is increasing the penalty for individuals and/or business that participate in discriminatory practices, including sexual harassment, in the workplace to $5,000 – $10,000 per violation, rather than $500 – $1,000 per violation. This penalty change goes into effect on June 4, 2022.

Action items for Chicago employers

Chicago employers should review and take steps to ensure that their current sexual harassment policy documentation and training modules are in compliance with the new ordinance’s training, notice and policy requirements when the changes fully go into effect on July 1, 2022.

If you have any questions about or related to the new Chicago sexual harassment ordinance, please reach out to a member of the Cooley employment team.

Related Contacts
Karun Ahuja  Associate Chicago
Carly E. Gibbons  Associate Chicago
Miriam Petrillo  Special Counsel Chicago
Ryan Vann  Partner Chicago
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