On April 28, 2020, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) released its model Sexual Harassment Prevention Training (download here), providing guidance for employers with employees operating in Illinois.

Under the Workplace Transparency Act (WTA), effective January 1, 2020, employees must receive training on sexual harassment prevention by December 31, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter. At minimum, the training must:

  • Explain what sexual harassment is (consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act definition).
  • Provide examples of prohibited conduct.
  • Summarize federal and state sexual harassment laws, including remedies available to victims.
  • Set out the employer’s responsibility to prevent, investigate, and correct sexual harassment.

The IDHR model also provides helpful guidance regarding the scope and application of the new training requirements. For example:

  • Interns, short-term, and part-time employees must receive training.
  • Independent contractors who work on site with the employer’s staff should receive training.
  • Training should cover a wide range of sexual harassment-related topics, such as gender identity, sexual orientation, and liability related to non-employees who are victims or perpetrators of sexual harassment.
  • Training should include telephone and web-based contact information for the IDHR and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Upon completion, attendees should sign and date a certificate of participation indicating the company name, work location, training date, and training method.

Illinois restaurants and bars (which essentially include any establishment in the business of serving food or drink) must provide supplemental training in English and Spanish aimed specifically at preventing sexual harassment in the restaurant and bar industry. The IDHR has stated that it will provide a model program for this industry as well. This blog will be updated once that specific sample training becomes available.

Failure to comply with the training requirements may subject employers to civil penalties of up to $5,000 per offense.

Be prepared

With employers understandably focusing on COVID-19-related issues, those with employees in Illinois must not forget to conduct sexual harassment prevention training in compliance with the WTA’s requirements. Employers may use their own program, as long as it complies with these requirements. In-person training is not explicitly required.

Contact your Reed Smith Labor & Employment attorney with any questions about compliance, and stay tuned for further guidance from Illinois agencies regarding interpretation and implementation of these new requirements.