Chicago Ordinance Amendment Expands Sexual Harassment Protections


On July 1, 2022, changes to the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance will go into effect. In April 2022, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Human Relations Commission amended the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, adding additional protections for those who experience sexual harassment. The amendments also changed the definitions of “sexual harassment” and “sexual orientation,” added a new written policy and training requirements for all city employers, and increased penalties for violating the ordinance. .

The changes are part of Mayor Lightfoot’s new strategic plan, titled “Citywide Strategic Plan to Address Gender-Based Violence and Human Trafficking.” According to the mayor’s office, the improvements “also aim to increase collective responsibility in communities and workplaces and dispel the myth that sexual harassment is a personal issue.”

Improved definition of sexual harassment to include “sexual misconduct”

The definition of “sexual harassment” in the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance has been expanded to include “(iii) sexual misconduct, which is any behavior of a sexual nature that also involves the coercion, abuse of authority or abuse of an individual’s employment position. ”

Pursuant to the Amendments, “sexual harassment” means (i) unwelcome sexual advances or any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature or (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature where (1) submission to such conduct is made either expressly or by implication a term or condition of an individual’s employment; (2) submission or rejection of such behavior by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s job performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment; or (iii) sexual misconduct, which is conduct of a sexual nature that also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or abuse of an individual’s employment position.

Modified definition of “sexual orientation”

“Sexual orientation” is now defined as “a person’s real or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person”.

Written Policy and Written Notice Requirements

As of July 1, 2022, all employers in the City of Chicago must have a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment. The policy should, at a minimum, include the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago

  • The definition of sexual harassment as defined above

  • A requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually

  • Examples of Prohibited Sexual Harassment

  • Details of how a person can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including, where applicable, instructions on how to make a confidential report, together with an internal complaint form, to a manager at the company’s head office. employer or human resources department, or other internal reporting mechanism

  • Details of legal and government services available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment

  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago

Employers will also be required to provide this policy in the employee’s primary language during the first calendar week after the employee begins employment. By July 1, 2022, the City of Chicago will provide sample sexual harassment policies on its website in Spanish, Polish, Simplified Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi.

Employers must also prominently post a poster for employees to see advising on the prohibition of sexual harassment. This poster must be displayed in English and Spanish. The City of Chicago will post the poster on its website by July 1, 2022.

New training requirements

As of July 1, 2022, all employers must provide annual training as follows:

  • One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees,

  • Supervisors/managers must receive an additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training (for a total of two hours); and

  • An additional hour of witness training for all employees.

“The training requirement will come into effect on July 1, 2022, which means that by June 30, 2023, all employees must receive the required training during their first round of annual training.”

For sexual harassment and prevention training hour, an employer may use the Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Curriculum Model prepared by the State of Illinois which is required under ILCS 5 Standard 775 /2-109, or he can establish his own training on the prevention of sexual harassment. program that meets or exceeds the minimum standards established in 775 ILCS 5/2-109(B).

By July 1, 2022, the City of Chicago will provide training templates and materials for the additional hour of Supervisor Training and Witness Training on its website.

New security measures for employees

The Chicago Human Rights Ordinance provides that the Chicago Human Relations Commission must provide anyone against whom a complaint is filed with a copy of the complaint within ten days of filing it with the agency. The amendments extend the notification period to thirty days in cases of sexual harassment. This is intended to help mitigate retaliation, such as the denial of a request for reasonable accommodation under the Illinois Victims Economic Security and Safety Act.

Extension of the limitation period

Victims of all forms of discrimination will now have 365 days after an alleged violation of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, rather than 300 days, to report discrimination, including sexual harassment.

Increased penalties

The amendments significantly increased the penalties in the event the Chicago Commission on Human Relations finds a violation of the law. Penalties will not be less than $5,000 and will not exceed $10,000 for each violation (previously $100 to $1,000). Each day that a violation continues will constitute a separate and distinct violation.

Key points to remember

Employers with employees in Chicago may wish to review their anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies to ensure they are compliant and take steps to ensure compliance with notice, posting and training required by these changes.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 144


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