Illinois Issues Model Harassment Training Program

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Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

At long last, the Illinois Department of Human Rights released its model State of Illinois Sexual Harassment Prevention Training.

As we previously reported, companies must provide all Illinois employees with annual training about the prevention of sexual harassment. This requirement took effect on January 1.

Employers must use either the model training created by the IDHR or create their own training program that equals or exceeds minimum standards set forth in the amended Illinois Human Rights Act. (Additional requirements exist for restaurants and bars.) However, the IDHR’s model training was conspicuously absent until now.

The 35-slide PowerPoint presentation just released by the IDHR is thorough. It defines sexual harassment under the Human Rights Act and provides numerous examples. The training also explains in detail the options available to someone who believes he or she has experienced, witnessed, or become aware of sexual harassment, ranging from telling the person to stop to filing a charge of discrimination with the IDHR or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The training also covers company liability for sexual harassment and describes an employer’s responsibilities regarding the prevention, investigation, and correction of sexual harassment in the workplace. Of particular note, the IDHR presentation goes beyond the text of the statute and its prior guidance, stating that independent contractors working onsite “should” receive sexual harassment prevention training.

The presentation also asserts that sexual harassment can occur outside of work hours, off-site, or online, and it states that the statutory prohibition against sexual harassment by employees applies not only to other employees, but also to patrons, vendors, and service providers of the business.

The required training does not need to be conducted in person. Thus, employers who are concerned about scheduling in-person seminars in light of the coronavirus pandemic can conduct the training via webinar or some other “remote” method, as long as the required subjects are covered. In any event, employers have until December 31 to complete the training for this calendar year, though the IDHR recommends that the training be conducted promptly.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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