Effective July 1, 2022, a new City of Chicago ordinance imposes significant new sexual harassment prevention requirements on virtually all employers that have employees working in the City of Chicago. Specifically, the Chicago ordinance requires employers to: (1) have a written policy on sexual harassment that includes specific provisions required by the ordinance; (2) post a model notice advising employees that sexual harassment is prohibited; and (3) provide annual training to employees – a minimum of two hours of training for non-supervisory employees and a minimum of three hours of training for supervisors and managers. In addition to these requirements, the ordinance also broadens the definition of sexual harassment to include “sexual misconduct,” increases the statute of limitations for employees to report all forms of discrimination (including sexual harassment), and substantially increases the fines that may be imposed on employers if the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (“CCHR”) determines that an employer has violated the ordinance. These changes align with and are part of Chicago’s strategic plan titled “Citywide Strategic Plan to Address Gender-based Violence and Human Trafficking.”
Scope and Coverage
Significantly, the new Chicago ordinance will apply to virtually any employer that has an employee working in Chicago – regardless of whether the employer maintains an office in Chicago. For purposes of this ordinance, “employer” is defined as “any individual, partnership, association, corporation, limited liability company, business trust, or any person or group of persons that provides employment for one or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such of an entity or person.” An “employee” is defined as “an individual who is engaged to work in the City of Chicago for or under the direction and control of another for monetary or other valuable consideration.”
New Policy and Posting Requirements
As a result of the new ordinance, most employers with employees in Chicago will need to immediately modify their harassment prevention policies (or create a Chicago supplement to include with their existing policy). An employer’s policy or Chicago supplement must include the following, and must be available in the employee’s “primary language” within the first week of his or her employment:
• A statement that sexual harassment and retaliation are illegal in Chicago;
• The ordinance’s expanded definition of sexual harassment, including “sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position”;
• A statement regarding the annual sexual harassment prevention training requirements;
• Examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment; and
• Details on how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment internally and externally (including how to contact applicable governmental agencies).
In addition to these policy requirements, employers must conspicuously display a CCHR-designed poster advising employees that sexual harassment is prohibited. This poster must be displayed in both English and Spanish.
The City has issued model policies and posters that are available in English, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi. City of Chicago :: Sexual Harassment.
The ordinance’s policy and posting requirements are effective July 1, 2022.
New Training Requirements
The Chicago ordinance also mandates that employers provide the following training to Chicago employees on an annual basis:
• One hour of sexual harassment prevention for all employees (including supervisors and managers);
• One hour of bystander training for all employees (including supervisors and managers); and
• One additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers.
For purposes of the one hour of sexual harassment prevention training required for all employees, the ordinance confirms that employers may rely on the State of Illinois’ model sexual harassment prevention training program or the employer’s own training program that meets the state’s standards. In terms of the additional bystander training and supervisor/manager training required by the ordinance, the City of Chicago is expected to release model training templates by July 1, 2022. In light of the new training requirements, employers with employees in Chicago should begin creating a plan to ensure that all Chicago employees receive the required training by June 30, 2023.
Other Substantive Changes Included in the Ordinance
In addition to imposing new policy, posting, and training requirements on employers, the new ordinance also amends the Chicago Human Rights ordinance in other substantive ways, including the following:
• Amends the definition of “sexual orientation” to “a person’s actual or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person.”
• Extends the timeline by which CCHR must notify an employer about the filing of a sexual harassment complaint against it from 10 days to 30 days.
• Increases the statute of limitations by which employees must file any discrimination or harassment complaint with the CCHR from 300 days to 365 days.
• Substantially increases the fines imposed on employers if the CCHR determines that an employer has violated the City’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions – from $500-$1,000 for each offense to $5,000-$10,000 for each offense (i.e., ten times the current range within which CCHR may impose fines). The ordinance also provides that employers who violate the ordinance’s new policy, posting, and training requirements will be fined $500-$1,000 for each offense. Notably, in each of these circumstances, the ordinance provides that “every day” that a violation continues “shall constitute a separate and distinct offense.”
• Provides that if the CCHR concludes that any discrimination complaint filed by a complainant is “clearly frivolous, clearly vexatious, or brought primarily for the purposes of harassment,” the Commission is authorized to impose a fine on the complainant of $250-$1000 per filing.
Employers should, if they have not already done so, take steps to comply with the new Chicago ordinance’s requirements.