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On July 1, 2022, amendments to Chicago’s Human Rights Ordinance will go into effect. In April 2022, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Commission on Human Relations amended the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, adding additional protections for those subjected to sexual harassment. The amendments also modified definitions of “sexual harassment” and “sexual orientation,” added new written policy and training requirements for all employers in the city, and increased penalties for violations of the ordinance.

The changes are a part of Mayor Lightfoot’s new strategic plan, titled the “Citywide Strategic Plan to Address Gender-based Violence and Human Trafficking.” According to the mayor’s office, the enhancements also “seek to increase collective accountability across communities and within workplaces and dispel the myth that sexual harassment is a personal issue.”

Enhancement to Definition of Sexual Harassment to Include “Sexual Misconduct”

The definition of “sexual harassment” in the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance has been expanded to include “(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.”

Pursuant to the amendments, “sexual harassment” means any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature or (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; (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 is behavior of a sexual nature that also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.

Amended Definition of “Sexual Orientation”

“Sexual orientation” is now defined as “a person’s actual or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person.”

Written Policy and Written Notice Requirements

As of July 1, 2022, all employers within the city of Chicago must have a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment. The policy must, at a minimum, include the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago
  • The definition of sexual harassment as defined above
  • A requirement that all employees annually participate in sexual harassment prevention training
  • Examples of prohibited sexual harassment
  • Details on 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
  • Details on legal and governmental services that are available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment
  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago

Employers will also be required to provide this policy in the employee’s primary language within the first calendar week of the commencement of the employee’s employment. By July 1, 2022, the City of Chicago will provide on its website model sexual harassment policies in Spanish, Polish, Simplified Chinese, Arabic and Hindi.

Employers must also conspicuously display a poster that employees can see that advises of the prohibition on sexual harassment. This poster must be displayed in both English and Spanish. The City of Chicago will provide the poster on its website by July 1, 2022.

New Training Requirements

As of July 1, 2022, all employers must provide annual training as follows:

  • One hour of sexual harassment prevention training to all employees,
  • Supervisors/mangers must receive an additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training (for a total of two hours); and
  • One additional hour of bystander training for all employees.

“The training requirement will go into effect July 1, 2022, meaning that by June 30, 2023, all employees must receive the required trainings as their first round of annual training.”

For the one hour of sexual harassment and prevention training, an employer may use the model sexual harassment prevention training program prepared by the State of Illinois that is required under 775 ILCS 5/2-109, or it may establish its own sexual harassment prevention training program that equals or exceeds the minimum standards set in 775 ILCS 5/2-109(B).

By July 1, 2022, the City of Chicago will provide on its website training templates and materials for the additional hour of supervisor training and for the bystander training.

New Safety Measures for Employees

The Chicago Human Rights Ordinance provides that the Chicago Commission on Human Relations must provide to any person against whom a complaint is made a copy of the complaint within ten days after it is filed with the agency. The amendments expand the notification period to thirty days in cases of sexual harassment. This is intended to help mitigate any retaliation, such as a denial of a reasonable accommodation request under the Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act.

Expansion of Statute of Limitations

Victims of all forms of discrimination will now have 365 days after an alleged violation of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance—instead of 300 days—to report discrimination, including sexual harassment.

Increased Penalties

The amendments substantially increased penalties in the event the Chicago Commission on Human Relations finds any violation of the law. Penalties will be not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000 for each offense (previously $100 to $1,000). Every day that a violation continues will constitute a separate and distinct offense.

Key Takeaways

Employers with employees in Chicago may want to review their antidiscrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies for compliance and take steps to ensure compliance with the notice, posting, and training requirements required by these amendments.

Ogletree Deakins’ Chicago office will continue to monitor changes to this law and will post updates on the firm’s Illinois blog with respect to the evolving landscape and potential compliance issues related to Sexual Harassment laws. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.


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