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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

My Advice: IL Sexual Harassment Training Compliance

I just completed a training program today for county officials that applies to all business owners, managers, and HR in the state here in Springfield today (on February 26, 2020) covering the Workplace Transparency Act and Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, I'd like to summarize some of the main points.  As the program description described, the Illinois Workplace Transparency Act imposes a variety of restrictions and requirements on employers relating to workplace discrimination and harassment including annual sexual harassment prevention training for all employees (in all employers of all sizes throughout the state).  The training covered the standards to get into and stay in compliance.

The most recent 2/5/20 Public Service Announcement by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) was introduced covering the need to provide training to all employees no later than 12/31/20 and annually thereafter with all new employees being trained within 90 days of that first annual training in 2020.  Of course, we already knew that but it also provided several links to documents as well as a frequently asked questions site.  It did not cover what was expected of them, at least not yet.  The problem is the state is supposed to develop a program for all employers to facilitate this training among their employees, but they have not yet done so and no one really knows what the end product will look like (online, face-to-face, etc.).  However, they have given guidance on what shall be included so that you can either hire someone to do it for you or you can develop your own training program.  The four elements that must be present in all employer related training consist of the following four item which was covered in detail in today's training:  
  • an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with the IHRA (IL Human Rights Act);
  • examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
  • a summary of relevant federal and State statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and
  • a summary of responsibilities of employers in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.
  • NOTE: All Bars & Restaurants must provide SUPPLEMENTAL training beyond the four bullets above.  The supplemental standards include: 
    • specific conduct, activities, or videos related to the restaurant or bar industry;
    • an explanation of manager liability and responsibility under the law; and 
    • English and Spanish language options.
Additional topics in the new law that are of importance particularly doing away with the so called "shoosh documents" are the second bullet that follows.
  • Limits the use of contract provisions intended to prevent employees from reporting SH, such as non-disclosure agreements and arbitration clauses. Makes harassment against contract employees illegal.
  • Prohibits employers from disclosing the name of a victim of an act of alleged SH or unlawful discrimination in any disclosures.
  • Also, requires local governments to report and provide an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment made against local elected officials. Effective January 1, 2020 (certain provisions immediate).
I would recommend all training be documented on a roster with all attendees listed to include signatures.  Either have them print their names then sign or have them sign beside their typed name because sometimes you can’t read their signatures to verify attendance.  Then double check with your payroll roster to make sure all employees have attended, and schedule make ups if necessary.  Another option is to have individual attendees sign an acknowledgement of attendance and put in their personnel file.

Even though EEOC Claims are down overall in 2019 and at a 27-year low, I might add, sex related claims remain higher than they should be at 23,532 charges in 2019.  Just two years ago only 1% of workers in the US were requited to participate in sexual harassment training.  Now with the inclusion of the new Illinois law 20% are now required which includes every employee working for all employers in the entire state.  This increase should help the charges go down but is another burden on employers that they have to focus on other than the product or service that they provide.  This too is is a massive undertaking for the state as well and is why it is taking so long for IDHR to meet the new requirement as stated in the act:
“the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") to develop a model sexual harassment prevention training program for use by employers.  Employers may develop their own sexual harassment prevention training program that equals or exceeds the minimum standards for sexual harassment prevention training outlined in Section 2-109(B) and/or Section 2-110(C) of IHRA”

Bottom line is either have some patience with IDHR or find a training resource if you want to check this requirement off your to do list earlier than the end of the year.  My recommendation is to find a time of year that is typically the slowest for you during a normal year and stick with it as a routine month to do the training since it’s an annual requirement you can follow year-to-year.

Just in case you didn't know...I have done this type of training my entire career and yes, I am available!  My program is EEOC and IDHR compliant!  Just give me a call or email anytime! I'd love to help any Illinois employer meet this requirement and other HR compliance standards!