New Illinois Law Regarding Sexual Harassment (Action Required for Public Employers)
By Jim Griffin, JD, Employment Counsel
Published December 5, 2017
As new sexual harassment allegations against all types of public figures continue to make headlines, the State of Illinois has taken steps to address this systemic sexual harassment and to prevent such harassment from occurring at the state and local government level. On November 16, 2017, Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 100-0554, which amended several existing statutes to add the following specific requirements pertaining to sexual harassment.
New Training and Policy Requirements for State Government Agencies and Lobbyists
The Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act (“Ethics Act”) was amended to 1) explicitly prohibit sexual harassment; 2) require state government leaders and employees in the General Assembly, state executive branches, and state agencies to undergo annual sexual harassment training; and 3) require the above-listed state authorities and agencies to institute an anti-harassment policy that includes, at a minimum, the following:
- A prohibition on sexual harassment;
- Details on how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including options for making a confidential report to a supervisor, ethics officer, Inspector General, or the Department of Human Rights;
- A prohibition on retaliation for reporting sexual harassment allegations, including availability of whistleblower protections under the Ethics Act, the Whistleblower Act, and the Illinois Human Rights Act; and
- The consequences for a violation of the prohibition on sexual harassment and the consequences for knowingly making a false report.
The Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act was also amended to require lobbyists to undergo annual sexual harassment training and to institute harassment policies that include the above-listed components.
New Policy Requirements for Local Units of Government
The Ethics Act was also amended to require units of local government (which would include, for example, libraries and park districts) to adopt an ordinance or resolution by January 15, 2018, establishing a policy to prohibit sexual harassment which includes the above-listed components. Association members can access a sample policy that meets the law’s requirements on the Management Association’s website.
Establishment of a Hotline to Report Sexual Harassment
The Illinois Human Rights Act was amended to require the Illinois Department of Human Rights to establish and operate a sexual harassment hotline by February 16, 2018. The hotline is intended as a means for individuals to anonymously report sexual harassment in both public and private places of employment. Through the hotline, the Department of Human Rights will help callers find resources such as counseling services and assist in the filing of sexual harassment complaints with the Department or other applicable agencies. The Department may recommend that an individual seek private counsel, but cannot make recommendations for legal representation.
As the law was just recently passed, it is unclear exactly how the new hotline will function, but there is a good chance that it may lead to an increase in charges filed. This law, in addition to the increased media attention on harassment concerns, should further demonstrate the importance of ensuring that 1) your organization has a well written anti-harassment policy; 2) the policy has been distributed to all employees; and 3) your organization conducts regular anti-harassment training for its managers and employees. Although no law specifies how often training has to be conducted, we recommend that you consider training for your employees every two to three years.
If you have any questions about the requirements under this law, or if you want to discuss the Management Association’s training options with respect to anti-harassment, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-448-4584.