THE CITY OF CHICAGO STRENGTHENS ITS STANCE AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

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Patricia Tsipras, Fallon Anne Dungan

June 29, 2022

Effective July 1, 2022, all employers with employees in the City of Chicago must adhere to Chicago’s new sexual harassment ordinance.  The ordinance, in brief, requires employers to have written policies prohibiting sexual harassment and to train employees and supervisors on sexual harassment prevention and response.

The City of Chicago has on its website resources available to aid employers’ compliance with the ordinance.

A Written Policy
Employers must adopt and enforce a written policy that includes:

  • a statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago
  • a statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago
  • the definition of sexual harassment, which has been expanded by the ordinance to include “sexual misconduct,” which means any behavior of a sexual nature that also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position
  • examples of prohibited conduct that constitutes sexual harassment
  • details on how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment
  • details on legal services, including governmental services, available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment

Required Training
The policy also must require training, including:

  • that all employees participate in one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually.
  • that anyone who supervises or manages employees participates in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually
  • that all employees participate in one hour of bystander training annually

Notice and a Conspicuously Displayed Poster
The ordinance further requires employers to provide their policy to employees in the employee’s primary language within the first calendar week of the employee’s employment.

Employers also must conspicuously display a poster – in both English and Spanish – that advises of the prohibition on sexual harassment.

Additional Changes

Notice to Alleged Wrongdoers
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 notification period is thirty days in cases of sexual harassment.

Extension of Statute of Limitations
The ordinance expands the statute of limitations.  Victims of all forms of discrimination will now have 365 days, instead of 300 days, after an alleged violation of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance to report discrimination, including sexual harassment.

Record Retention
Employers must retain written records of its policies and trainings, as well as other records necessary to show compliance with the ordinance, for a period of at least five years, or for the duration of any claim, civil action, or investigation pending pursuant to the ordinance, whichever is longer.  Failure to maintain the required records creates a presumption, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence, that an employer violated the ordinance.

Increased Penalties
The ordinance substantially increases penalties in the event the Chicago Commission on Human Relations finds a 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.

The attorneys at Rubin Fortunato stand ready to assist you with updating your policies, developing your training, or otherwise ensuring compliance with the Ordinance.

 

*Special thanks to Claire Miller, our intern from the University of Notre Dame, for her contributions to this article. 

 
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