Eagerly Anticipated Guidance on Illinois’ Sexual Harassment Prevention and Training Requirements Released

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IHDR) has answered the call for clarity and provided guidance on the sexual harassment prevention measures necessitated by Public Act 101-0221 (commonly referred to as the Workplace Transparency Act), which amended the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA). As of January 1, 2020, the IHRA requires Illinois employers: 1) to provide sexual harassment prevention training by December 31, 2020 and annually thereafter; and 2) for restaurants and bars to establish and disseminate a written policy on sexual harassment within the first week of an individual’s hire and to provide supplemental, industry-specific sexual harassment prevention training.

On January 31, 2020, the IDHR released guidance in the form of several electronic “handouts” including:

  • Minimum Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Standards for All Employers
  • Minimum Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Standards for Restaurants and Bars
  • Minimum Standards for Policy on Sexual Harassment Prevention for Restaurants and Bars

The IDHR also released guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions, which answer some of employers’ most burning questions about their new legal obligation to train employees on sexual harassment prevention. Importantly, the IDHR clarified that:

  • Employers are required to train all employees in Illinois, including short-term and part-time employees, and interns.
  • Employers are not required to train independent contractors, but are strongly advised to train independent contractors who will work on-site at the employer’s workplace or interact with the employer’s staff.
  • Any employee who will perform work or regularly interact with the employer’s employees in Illinois should be trained, even if based in another state.
  • Employers must retain records to show that all employees have received the requisite training, and must provide those records to the IDHR upon request.
  • While employers may ask new employees to provide documentation that they have completed training elsewhere, employers are responsible for ensuring that the training received elsewhere is compliant with the IHRA.
  • If an employer requires its employees to undergo training outside of working hours, it must compensate employees for their time.
  • The training must be accessible to employees with disabilities and with limited English proficiency.

The full text of the IDHR’s guidance is available on the IDHR’s website at www.illinois.gov/dhr/training

Based on this guidance, multi-state employers and/or employers that utilize temporary workers may be at risk if they do not train all individuals who will work with or have regular contact with their Illinois employees. Employers must also maintain records of all employees trained during the year, either in the form of a certificate or a signed employee acknowledgement or course sign-in worksheet, in paper or electronic form. It is not clear from the IDHR’s guidance how long employers must maintain such records, but it is advisable to indefinitely maintain those records in each employee’s personnel file.

The IDHR also announced that it plans to release its free model training in February 2020. While employers are allowed to create their own trainings, or work with a third-party training company, the IDHR states that it will not certify such trainings for compliance with the Act.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.