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Illinois’ New Sexual Harassment Training Requirement – Who Needs To Comply?

Whether or not they have a facility in the State, all employers with at least one Illinois employee must tackle Illinois’ new harassment prevention training requirements

During the summer of 2019, Illinois passed sweeping #MeToo legislation designed to increase employee protections against discrimination in the workplace.  Among other things, the legislation, known as the Illinois Workplace Transparency Act, requires Illinois employers to provide legally-compliant sexual harassment prevention training to their employees on an annual basis, beginning no later than December 31, 2020.  

The impact of the Workplace Transparency Act reaches far beyond the State of Illinois

Although an Illinois law, the Act’s impact can and will reach far beyond Illinois’ borders.  Certainly, all employers based in Illinois will need to comply with the new harassment prevention training requirements.  However, the impact of the law does not end there, or even with employers that have facilities or offices in the State.  As explained by the Illinois Department of Human Rights, which has recently released new guidance on the law, any employer that employs one or more Illinois residents must comply with the law whether or not the employer has a physical presence in the state.  

What are the training requirements? 
To comply, subject employers must adopt and provide an appropriate annual training program that, at a minimum, includes each of the following parts: 1) an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”); 2) examples of the conduct that could constitute sexual harassment under the IHRA; 3) a summary of Illinois state and federal laws regarding sexual harassment, including the potential remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and 4) a summary of the responsibilities employers have with respect to the prevention, investigation and correction of sexual harassment.  In addition, employers must keep an ongoing record of all of the trainings they provide.  

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) has put together a website that identifies these requirements and contains additional information pertaining to the necessary training.  Any employer that fails to comply with the requirements could ultimately be subject to one or more civil penalties imposed by the State.    

So, which employees need to be trained?

Perhaps not surprisingly, subject employers must ensure that all of their Illinois-resident employees receive legally-compliant training on an annual basis.  In addition, however, subject employers must also ensure that all non-Illinois employees who regularly interact with Illinois-resident employees receive appropriate annual training.  For example, a supervisor located in Wisconsin or Minnesota who manages one or more salespeople based out of Illinois must receive training consistent with the Illinois Workplace Transparency Act.  In reality, any non-Illinois employee who regularly interacts with one or more Illinois employees will need to receive appropriate training, even if the interaction is only temporary in nature.

*       *       *       *

Whether intended or not (and I happen to think it was intended), Illinois’ sexual harassment training requirements have an extremely broad reach, extending to countless numbers of employers based outside of the state.  Subject employers should definitely take a look at the requirements now to make sure that they have a good understanding of their legal obligations and take appropriate steps to bring their practices into compliance by the end of the year.     

Please contact John Gardner or any other member of DeWitt’s Employment Relations practice group with any questions regarding the requirements or impact of Illinois’ new sexual harassment training requirements.

About the Author

John Gardner is an attorney practicing out of our Madison office. He is the Chair of the Labor & Employment Relations practice group. He is also a member of the Litigation practice group. Contact John by email or by phone at (608) 252-9322.

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