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Employer Alert: New Chicago Ordinance Expanding Sexual Harassment Protections

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Nonprofit leaders who want to protect their workforce against sexual harassment wisely adopt anti-harassment policies, implement training, and take other proactive measures to honor the safety and well-being of their employees. Consistent with such goals, a new Chicago ordinance imposes additional anti-harassment training and related requirements, provides for enhanced penalties, and specifies a longer statute of limitations.

The specific law is the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Ordinance, effective as of July 1, 2022. [1] The Ordinance applies to any employer (regardless of size) that is either (a) subject to Chicago licensing requirements, or (b) maintains a facility within the geographical boundaries of the City of Chicago. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations enforces the Ordinance with “zero tolerance of violence and harassment in the workplace.” [2] Many of the Chicago Ordinance requirements run parallel with the Illinois Human Rights Act and Illinois Workplace Transparency Act, as amended in 2020, as well as federal anti-harassment laws and best practices.

The following sections detail the new Ordinance’s training, policy, and notice compliance requirements and provide resources for successful implementation. While such measures may be legally required only in Chicago, they may serve as helpful benchmarks for all employers strive to guard against unlawful sexual harassment and related employment issues.

Increased Annual Training

Perhaps most notably, the Chicago Ordinance imposes increased annual training requirements. Previously, Chicago employers were required to complete one hour of annual sexual harassment training for employees, keeping record of such completion. [3] Now, all Chicago employers are required to provide the following additional training:
• One additional hour of sexual harassment prevention for managers/supervisors; and
• One hour of bystander training for all employees.

The City of Chicago has published open training templates readily available through the Chicago Commission on Human Relation’s (“CCHR”) webpage to help employers facilitate these trainings. [4] The Illinois Department of Human Right’s training resource, commonly utilized by employers in prior years, still covers the initial hour of sexual harassment prevention training. The City of Chicago’s resources, especially for the manager/supervisor-specific training and bystander training, may serve helpful as these are pioneering municipal requirements. [5] The City of Chicago further states the “training templates provided are meant to be expanded and tailored to meet the individual needs of employers.” Note too, documentation of employee training completion must be kept for a minimum period of five years.

Written Policy

As of July 1, 2022, all employers in the City of Chicago must have a written policy on sexual harassment. The CCHR outlines the following policy requirements: [6]
• A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago;
• Inclusion of the Ordinance’s enhanced definition of sexual harassment;
• All employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually;
• The annual training requirements (per above);
• Examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment;
• Detailed guidance addressing:
• how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including, as appropriate, instructions on how to make a confidential report, with an internal complaint form, to a manager, employer’s corporate headquarters or human resources department, or other internal reporting mechanism; and
• legal services, including governmental, available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment.
• A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.

The Ordinance’s Model Policy is available through the CCHR website and is “meant to be expanded and tailored to meet the individual needs of the employer.”[7] If they haven’t already done so, all covered employers must establish a formal written policy made available to current employees and to provide a copy to all new employees within the first calendar week of starting employment, in the employee’s primary language. Such policy may be set forth in an employee handbook or otherwise in materials provided to employees.

Notification to Employees

Within one week of each new worker’s employment, employers must notify employees of their sexual harassment policy. Additionally, employers are required to display a poster in a conspicuous place, such as a breakroom, for employees to be notified of their right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace, a reference to the definition of sexual harassment, a description of unlawful retaliation, and details on how to report sexual harassment. Written notices from the CCHR may be obtained in electronic format in several language options online.[8] Given the continued prevalence of remote work arrangements, a further best practice would be to provide a copy of such notice via email or otherwise, in addition to physically displaying the required City notice.


The CCHR outlines penalties for violating this law as follows:
• Any person who fails to post the notice regarding sexual harassment, fails to conduct annual sexual harassment prevention and bystander intervention training, or fails to develop a written sexual harassment policy is subject to a fine of $500-$1,000 for each offense.
• Any person found liable for engaging in sexual harassment is subject to a fine of $5,000 - $10,000.

Other Changes

The CCHR Ordinance provides additional safety measures for employees and a lengthened time period for reporting. The law now allows CCHR to “expand the notification to the respondent [i.e., the alleged wrongdoer person alleged to have caused harm] timeline from 10 days to up to 30 days. This intends to help mitigate any retaliation such as a denial of a reasonable accommodation request under the Illinois Victim’s Economic and Security Act.”[10] Additionally, the statute of limitations now allows victims 365 days (increased from 300 days) to report all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment. The definition of sexual harassment also now explicitly includes “sexual misconduct.”

Key Take-Aways

Employers covered by the new Chicago Ordinance need to step up their legal compliance measures – now. They thus should follow up with all mandatory training requirements, as well as maintain records of such compliance, adopt or update their written sexual harassment policy, post notices as required, and to otherwise comprehensively address this important issue for their employees’ well-being and for optimal legal compliance. Employers elsewhere should likewise take note and consider updating their harassment-related employment materials, training, and related attentiveness.

[1] The Chicago Commission on Human Relations Ordinance may be found online here.

[2] Please reference CCHR’s website here.

[3] See our law firm’s blog articles, Year-End Deadline for Illinois Sexual Harassment Training Program and Annual Anti-Harassment Training – Good Idea!

[4] Available online, see City of Chicago’s Sexual Harassment Training Materials. Additional training and informational material may be found here.

[5] The IDHR’s training resources may be found online here. See also our law firm’s blog article, Anti-Harassment Training Resource – Telios Teaches.

[6] See City of Chicago’s Model Sexual Harassment Policy for Employers, which includes specific language defining “sexual harassment.”

[7] Reference the CCHR website here, in the dropdown list for Links to Templates: Policy & Notice Requirements.

[8] Please see the City of Chicago’s Written Notice here.

[9] Please reference the CCHR website, under Frequently Asked Questions, What are the penalties for violating this law?

[10] Please reference the CCHR website here, in the dropdown list for Safety Measures for Employees.

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