Chicago’s new sexual harassment prevention ordinance went into effect this month, imposing significant new obligations on Chicago employers.
The ordinance requires employers to have a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment that includes an expanded definition of sexual harassment, a statement that sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment are illegal in Chicago, examples of prohibited conduct that constitutes sexual harassment, details on how to report sexual harassment internally at the company and where victims of sexual harassment can seek assistance outside the company, and a requirement that employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually. The written policy must be provided to employees in their primary language within the first calendar week of their employment. Employers have the option to develop their own policy that satisfies the requirements of the ordinance or to use a model policy developed by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR). The model policy is available on the CCHR’s website in English, Spanish, Polish, simplified Chinese, Arabic and Hindi.
With respect to training, Chicago employers must now require supervisory and management employees to participate in at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually, and all other employees must participate in at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually. Additionally, all employees must participate annually in one hour of bystander training that addresses safe and positive actions that may be carried out by a person or a group of people to prevent harm or intervene where there is a risk or perceived risk of sexual harassment of another. The stand-alone bystander training requirement is the first of its kind in the country. Employers can use the model sexual harassment prevention training or can develop their own training program.
Chicago employers must also conspicuously display sexual harassment prevention posters designed by the Human Rights Commission in both English and Spanish.
Failure to comply with these new requirements can be costly. Employers that violate any of these requirements are subject to fines of $500 to $1,000 for each offense, and the ordinance specifies that each day a violation continues is a separate and distinct offense.