State Publishes Mandatory Training Standards to Address Sexual Harassment

State Publishes Mandatory Training Standards to Address Sexual Harassment

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) recently released a model training program to help workers understand their rights and responsibilities regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.  Under a law passed in late 2019, all employers are required to provide training on sexual harassment no later than the end of this year, and on an annual basis afterward. Employers may implement the IDHR model program or develop their own program that meets or exceeds its standards.

The IDHR program encompasses a range of topics, including an explanation of sexual harassment as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act; examples of conduct that may constitute unlawful sexual harassment; Federal and State laws and remedies available to victims; and employer responsibilities in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.  While the training is geared toward employee awareness, it also serves as an educational tool for small businesses with limited expertise in human resources.

For example, some employers may be surprised to learn that:

  • Employers can be liable for harassment that involves non-employees like vendors or clients– whether those individuals are the perpetrator or the victim.
  • Actionable harassment may occur away from the primary workplace and in digital interactions like email, text messages and social media.
  • The gender of victims or harassers is irrelevant to whether a claim of harassment can be made.
  • Bystanders who are negatively impacted by harassment directed toward others may state their own cases for harassment.

In addition to providing the standard sexual harassment prevention training, state law also requires restaurants and bars to provide supplemental training to staff that addresses unique issues arising in that industry.  IDHR has not yet published its model program for restaurants and bars but promises that the information is “forthcoming.”