New Chicago Ordinance Requires Additional Sexual Harassment Prevention Measures for Employers

8.16.2022 Blog

Chicago aspires to lead other cities in anti-sexual harassment measures, with new legal requirements that employers provide bystander intervention training along with increased notice and other training requirements for employees.  The Chicago City Council recently passed a new Ordinance, which amends Municipal Code Titles by changing and expanding sexual harassment prevention requirements.  The Ordinance became effective July 1, 2022, with the purpose of making the laws stronger and promoting a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

Some definitions broadened, including what constitutes sexual harassment, which now explicitly includes sexual misconduct.  Additionally, an employee includes individuals who work within the geographical boundaries of the City of Chicago.  Finally, sexual orientation is no longer confined to heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, but now includes: “a person’s actual or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person.”

Procedural requirements were changed, including the prior deadline to file within 300 days of the alleged violation, which increased to 365 days, and notification to the subject of the complaint within ten days, which increased to thirty days.

The most substantive additions for employers include the new training requirements and written policies to be personally distributed and publicly displayed regarding the anti-sexual harassment policies.

Every employer is now required to have a written policy document prohibiting sexual harassment.  This new policy document must include: a statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago; the definition of sexual harassment; a requirement that all employees, supervisors, and managers participate in one hour of bystander training annually; employees participate in at least one hour and management participates in at least two hours of  sexual harassment training, annually; details and complaint forms to confidentially report allegations of sexual harassment to a manager, employer’s corporate headquarters, human resources, or other internal reporting mechanisms; a list of legal services, including governmental, available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment; and a statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.  The policy document must be written in an employee’s primary language and provided to the employee within his or her first calendar week of employment.   Specific to hotels, all employees must additionally be provided with a copy of the anti-sexual harassment policy in English, Spanish, and Polish.

Aligned with this written policy, employers must now require employees to fulfill the annual sexual harassment prevention and bystander training and time requirements.  The City of Chicago provides training materials for all required modules here.  Employers may use model sexual harassment prevention training prepared by the Illinois Department of Human Rights for a portion of the training.  All employees must receive their first round of the new required annual training by June 30, 2023.

Additionally, every employer must “conspicuously display in at least one location where employees commonly gather,” posters designed by the Commission regarding the prohibition on sexual harassment, in both English and Spanish.   At hotels, the public poster must additionally be displayed in Polish. For model policies and posters in English, Spanish, Polish, simplified Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi, click here.

Moreover, for each violation of the written policy, training and time requirements, and/or poster display requirements, individual (employers) will be fined between $5,000 to $10,000 per day that the violation continues.  This is an increase from the previous $500 to $1,000 penalty per violation.

Finally, employers are now required to keep records of their compliance, including copies of their written policy, posters, and training, for at least five years or the duration of any investigation, claim, or action under the Ordinance.

If you are an employer with questions about ensuring your compliance with this Ordinance, please contact our labor and employment attorneys at Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie, & Lowry for assistance.

The NBKL blog is provided for informational purposes; we are not giving legal advice or creating an attorney/client relationship by providing this information.  Before relying on any legal information of a general nature, you may consider consulting legal counsel as to your particular facts and applications of the law.