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Tuesday - Bare Essentials - Illinois Sexual Harassment Law, effective January 1, 2020

Illinois Gets Tough on Sexual Harassment

On August 9, 2019 Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Workplace Transparency Act, which in addition to requiring annual sexual harassment training for all employees also adds provisions for civil penalties for non-compliance and requires each employer to assure even independent contractors are trained. This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

The law expands the Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) to allow victims of domestic, sexual, or gender violence to take unpaid leave to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning, and other assistance without penalty if requested.  A victim of workplace harassment could be entitled to such leave. Failure to provide this leave could be a subject of a lawsuit.

Employers who are non-compliant in having a documented training program and policy will be subject to civil penalties. Penalties for first offenses for businesses with less than 4 employees are $500 and those with 4 employees or more $1,000. Subsequent violations can raise the penalties up to $5,000 per violation.

The new law requires employers to report to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) the total number of final adverse administrative or judicial decisions involving sexual harassment or discrimination in the previous year. Not just in Illinois but anywhere in the country. These reports must be made starting July 1, 2020, and on July 1 every year after. During an investigation The IDHR may also require that employers disclose the total number of settlements involving sexual harassment and discrimination claims entered into during the previous five years anywhere in the country.

Further, non-compliant companies who lose a sexual harassment lawsuit many pay greater settlements. Also, any insurance held to cover liabilities, which may include sexual harassment, can be expected to not be valid for a non-compliant company.

For all of these reasons, all companies in Illinois need to have not just training but a system that tracks compliance and reports on when retaining is required.

Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance.