New Law Requires Illinois Employers to Provide Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
It has now been about two years since the resurgence of the #MeToo movement began, first with accusations by actress Ashley Judd against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, followed by a Twitter post of support by Alyssa Milano. The #MeToo is a social media “hashtag”—a device intended to track the popularity of a particular topic—that Milano encouraged survivors of sexual assault, rape, and other types of sexual misconduct to use as a show of solidarity with one another.
For many victims, the problem is at work, where managers, co-workers, and even customers behave inappropriately and commit acts of sexual harassment. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, lawmakers in Illinois and around the country have been looking for ways to strengthen laws that combat workplace sexual harassment and to protect those who might otherwise be victimized.
In August of this year, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed The Workplace Transparency Act into law. The new law places a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of employers to provide sexual harassment training to all of their employers, among other requirements.
Making Information Available
The new law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020, directs the Illinois Department of Human Rights to develop a sexual harassment training program and to make it available to all Illinois employers. There is to be a separate training program designed specifically for restaurants and bars—workplaces in which employees are often subject to sexual harassment from customers on whom they rely for tips. Employers in all sectors will be required to conduct sexual harassment training with all of their employees at least once per year. The training will include information on defining, identifying, preventing, and reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.
Under the new law, contract workers and consultants will be afforded protection against sexual harassment for the first time. Currently, a sexual harassment complaint or lawsuit can only be filed by a victim against his or her employer, as sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination. Therefore, a contractor or consultant who experiences sexual harassment while working at but not employed by a particular company has no legal recourse. Beginning next year, employers can be held responsible for “harassment of nonemployees” by the employer’s staff if the employer is notified of the issue and fails to take corrective action.
Another provision in the new law is a restriction on the use of contracts, including non-disclosure agreements or non-disparagement clauses that are often used to prevent employers from reporting sexual harassment. An employer cannot force confidentiality clauses on an employee in cases involving harassment, retaliation, or reporting.
Beginning July 1, 2020, hotel and casino employees will have yet another protection in the form of panic buttons. Employees who work in isolated spaces will be required to have access to panic buttons or another type of immediate notification system that can be activated in the event of harassment or assault.
Contact an Illinois Sexual Harassment Attorney
For more information regarding the new law or for help with filing a sexual harassment complaint against your employer, contact an experienced Chicago workplace discrimination lawyer at MKFM Law. Call 630-665-7300 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team today.