Illinois Department of Human Rights Releases Model Sexual Harassment Training

In accordance with the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) amendments under Public Act 101-0221 (known as the Workplace Transparency Act), all Illinois employers must provide mandatory sexual harassment training to all employees by December 31, 2020, and annually thereafter.

After issuing guidance on the sexual harassment training requirements in January, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) has now published its model sexual harassment training. This model training sets the minimum training standards that Illinois employers must provide to all full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees and interns. This training must include:

  • an explanation of sexual harassment as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act;
  • examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
  • a summary of relevant federal and Illinois statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and
  • a summary of employers’ responsibilities for the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.

There is no required format for this training.  The training need not be interactive or presented live. It must, however, be accessible for employees with disabilities or who have limited English proficiency. Employers may opt to use the IDHR’s model or to develop their own training, but any employer-created training must meet or exceed the minimum standards demonstrated by the IDHR model training.

Employers must also maintain internal records of training compliance and must make these records available to the IDHR upon request. Compliance records may include, for example, a certificate of participation, a signed employee acknowledgement, or training sign-in worksheets with the names of all employees trained and dates of training.  These records may also include copies of all written or recorded materials that constitute the training provided to employees.

In addition to providing the mandatory training, restaurants and bars must also maintain a written policy on sexual harassment.  Such employers must also provide supplemental, industry-specific sexual harassment prevention training that addresses specific conduct, activities, or videos related to the restaurant or bar industry and explains manager liability and responsibility under the law. These supplemental materials must be made available in both English and Spanish. The IDHR has not yet released its model training for bars and restaurants but says it is forthcoming.

The IDHR has announced that it will not be extending the December 31, 2020 deadline despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any employer that fails to provide training before the end of the year will be issued a notice to show cause, giving the employer 30 days to comply. Failure to comply within 30 days will result in the IDHR petitioning the Illinois Human Rights Commission for entry of an order imposing a civil penalty against the employer.  These penalties can be substantial—an employer with more than four employees could be subject to penalties ranging from $1,000 for a first offense, to $3,000 for a second offense, to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense.  Accordingly, Illinois employers should act quickly to implement a training plan.

The IDHR’s model training is available for download at no cost.

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.