Illinois SB 75 Training

Illinois Sexual Harassment Training Deadline Approaching. Are You Prepared?

 

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On August 9, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed SB 75 into law. There are many aspects of this bill, but this article focuses on the sexual harassment training required of all Illinois employers. The deadline of January 1, 2021, to provide this training is fast approaching. 

Illinois followed in the footsteps of other states that enacted similar statutes in response to the nationwide “me too” movement. Illinois state government itself experienced sexual harassment from within the offices and campaigns of a number of elected state officials and representatives. Legislators responded by drafting laws to redress the issue within the Illinois government but also created legislation impacting all Illinois employers. Currently, 11 states require sexual harassment training, and another six have pending similar legislation. 

Laws protecting employees from sexual harassment and discrimination have existed for many years, but the new Illinois law requires employers to provide specific training for all employees. Employers, including many in Illinois, have also provided sexual harassment training for years to discourage the behavior from occurring in their workplaces. 

Employers want to protect their employees from sexual harassment for many reasons. Preventing sexual harassment can improve employee retention, reduce turnover, and prevent costly employment practice liability claims. Court-awarded damages for employment-related lawsuits average $217,000 per claim. Employment practice liability insurance (EPLI) is a special line of coverage that must be purchased separately. Unfortunately, a number of small and medium-size employers decline this important coverage because of cost. The legal costs to simply defend a claim can easily exceed the amount of the premium. While this article focuses on sexual harassment training, readers should understand the potential consequences of not purchasing adequate employment practice liability insurance. 

Sexual harassment prevention training:

An amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) requires employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees. This training must be provided to all employees by January 1, 2021, and the training must be repeated annually. The law applies to employers, regardless of the number of employees, and it includes all full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers. 

The following must be covered in training:

  • An explanation of sexual harassment.
  • Examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment.
  • A summary of relevant state and federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment and the remedies for violations of these laws.
  • A summary of the employer’s responsibility to prevent, investigate, and correct sexual harassment.

The law required the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to develop a model training program for employers. The department published this document in March of this year. Employer training programs must include at least the information contained in the model training program. 

While not required by Illinois law, except for restaurants, bars, hotels, and casinos, it is recommended all employers develop and communicate an anti-sexual harassment policy. We recommend this policy, in addition to the process for communicating incidents in which an employee believes they have been sexually harassed, should be communicated to all employees during the training event. We also recommend employers consider a separate training session be held for supervisors and leaders as their involvement is key in preventing and responding to situations involving sexual harassment. 

The law also “strongly advises” employers to provide sexual harassment training to independent contractors who frequently interact with employees. At a minimum, employers should consider requiring temporary services and other long-term independent contractors to verify their employees have been provided with sexual harassment training. 

Violations:

If an employer fails to comply with its training obligations, the IDHR can issue a notice to show cause giving the employer 30 days to comply. The IDHR is authorized to extend that date at its discretion.

If the employer fails to comply within 30 days or by a later date set by the IDHR, the Illinois Human Rights Commission is authorized to assess civil penalties based on the employer’s size and history of offenses. Employers with fewer than four employees may face penalties of up to $500 for a first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense, and up to $3,000 for three or more offenses. For employers with at least four employees, the maximum penalties increase to $1,000, $3,000, and $5,000, respectively. 

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, the regulatory penalties for failure to provide sexual harassment training pale in comparison to the actual cost of litigation and settlements paid to victims of workplace sexual harassment. Employers should view the training now required as an opportunity to avoid the disruption and costs associated with sexual harassment claims. 

illinois sexual harassment training Solutions:

Horton Safety Consultants offers professional training services, including Illinois-specific sexual harassment prevention training. A variety of training delivery options are available. Our consultants will incorporate your sexual harassment policy and protocols into the presentation to make the training even more effective. If you prefer, our consultants can also present a separate sexual harassment prevention training session to your supervisors and leadership team. Our team of consultants is prepared to help your company or organization meet the January 1, 2021 deadline for sexual harassment prevention training.