Chicago's first-of-its-kind municipal requirement for companies to provide bystander sexual harassment training may set a new standard for other municipalities seeking to model sexual harassment prevention policies to combat harassment in the workplace.
Examples of prohibited acts that the City of Chicago considers sexual harassment include:
- Repeated, unwelcome sexually suggestive comments, gestures, e-mails, or pictures.Unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature.
- Requests for sexual favors in exchange for a raise or promotion at work.
- Threats that an employment, promotion, or other favorable treatment at work are conditional on sexual or personal ties.
- Sexual favors in exchange for an agreement to rent an apartment or make repairs are required. The continuation of a rental agreement for housing is conditional on a sexual or personal relationship.
Sexual Harassment Training Chicago Law Updates
In April 2022, Mayor Lightfoot and the Commission on Human Relations amended the city's sexual harassment laws to make them stronger and uphold zero tolerance for violence and harassment in the workplace.
Chicago’s sexual harassment laws were altered to align with the Citywide Strategic Plan to Address Gender-based Violence and Human Trafficking. The plan seeks to strengthen worker protections and educate employees and their allies about their rights in order to abolish gender-based violence and human trafficking by identifying and reforming policies that perpetuate or promote them.
- As of July 1, 2022, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations is now enforcing all Chicago employees to receive one hour of bystander training annually, as mandated by the new ordinance. Chicago employers must begin providing the training by June 30, 2023.
- Beginning June 4, 2022, penalties for all types of discrimination will rise from $500-$1,000 to $5,000-$10,000 per breach.
- As of June 4, 2022, the definition of sexual harassment now explicitly includes sexual misconduct:
“Sexual harassment” means any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct 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 work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment; or (iii) sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.
- As of July 1, 2022, a change to the victims of sexual harassment notification period from 10 days to up to 30 days designed to deter retaliation such as an economic or physical victimization under the Illinois Victim's Economic and Security Act.
- As of June 4, 2022, victims will now have 365 days rather than 300 days to report all types of harassment, including sexual misconduct.
- Requires businesses to incorporate a written sexual harassment policy. Additionally, employers will be required to display a poster advising of the prohibition on sexual harassment where employees can see it. CCHR and the Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP) will have authority over enforcement.
What is bystander intervention in sexual harassment?
A person or group of employees who notices sexual molestation in the workplace and wants to prevent it or intervene can be a bystander. The EEOC defines bystander intervention as “actions that are safe and positive and may be taken to prevent harm or intervene when there is a perceived risk of sexual harassment.” Any employee in the workplace may be a bystander and notice incidents where others may seem uncomfortable or notice actions that are inappropriate.
What is the bystander effect?
The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages intervening in an emergency situation, against a person bully, or during an assault or other crime. For our purposes today, during an incident of sexual harassment. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is for any one of them to provide help to a person in distress.
Bystander Training Requirements for Chicago
Starting July 1, 2022, The Department of Human Rights commission requires bystander training for employees to include:
- Recognize situations of potential sexual harassment
- Understand institutional structures and cultural conditions that facilitate sexual harassment
- Overcome barriers to interventionIdentify safe and effective intervention options
- Take action
Chicago Sexual Harassment Training Materials for Employers
As of July 1, 2022, employers had access to training materials provided by the City of Chicago to help them update their harassment prevention training program.
Takeaway for Employers: Sexual Harassment Is Illegal in Chicago
Unlike New York City's sexual harassment prevention training, which includes bystander mediation instruction. Chicago's ordinance is unique because it exceeds the minimum by requiring Chicago employers to provide an hour of bystander training for all employees in addition to the one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually (2 hours for supervisors/managers).
Employers with employees in Chicago may want their human resources team and legal services to review their anti-harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policies for compliance and take corrective measures to ensure compliance with the latest regulatory mandates, posting, and sexual harassment prevention training requirements required by these amendments.
Vubiz is ready to help employers with employees in Chicago transition through these regulatory changes with sexual harassment training courses that meet these new sexual harassment laws. Request a personalized demo for today!