Illinois Department of Human Rights Issues Guidance on Anti-Harassment Training
In 2019, the Illinois General Assembly enacted, and Governor Pritzker signed into law, P.A. 101-0221, containing sweeping new measures to combat workplace harassment. (Our earlier summaries are available here.) One of the new requirements in that law was a mandate that all Illinois employers provide anti-harassment training at least annually to all employees beginning in 2020. The law directed the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to develop a model anti-harassment training program that employers could use for this purpose. Until recently, the IDHR had given no indication as to when this model training would be available.
Now, the IDHR’s Institute for Training and Development has updated its website with a “Frequently Asked Questions” section addressing the new law. The IDHR website also includes sections on “Minimum Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Standards for All Employers” and minimum standards on sexual harassment prevention training and policies for restaurants and bars. While much of this information simply echoes the language of the legislation, there are some important insights for employers, including the following:
- Employers must train “all” employees who work in the state of Illinois. This includes part-time employees, temps, and interns, as well as employees based outside of the state who may occasionally work in Illinois.
- The IDHR says that employers “should” also train employees outside of Illinois who regularly interact with employees in Illinois.
- Training must be “accessible” to employees. This means that employers may need to provide training in languages other than English and may have to provide other accommodations to allow disabled employees to benefit from training.
- All employees must be trained each calendar year. This means that even employees who received anti-harassment training in 2019 must be re-trained in 2020 and each year thereafter.
- The IDHR will provide a model training curriculum, but it will be up to employers to present training either through their own staff or third-party vendors.
- The IDHR is promising that these materials will be available “in February 2020.”
- The IDHR will not certify training vendors, so employers will be responsible for ensuring that any training complies with the minimum requirements of the new law.
What Should Employers Do Now?
Annual anti-harassment training has long been a good idea. It is now the law, at least in Illinois. Employers that do not already have an anti-harassment training program in place should plan to implement such a program for all employees before the end of 2020, and they must update their training materials to meet the minimum requirements under the new law.
Ideally, employees who have not previously received anti-harassment training should be trained as soon as possible. However, employers may wish to postpone any new training initiative until the IDHR issues its model training materials in February to ensure that any training addresses all of the points raised in the IDHR’s model program. Employers are strongly advised to consult with legal counsel to confirm that their training programs comply with the new law.
Employers should also talk with their employment counsel about how the new mandatory anti-harassment training can be integrated with their overall harassment prevention and diversity initiatives. In particular, employers may wish to consider:
- Whether to expand employee training to cover topics beyond the minimum requirements, such as other forms of workplace harassment and discrimination;
- Reviewing and updating procedures for reporting and investigating workplace harassment; and
- Providing additional training for supervisors, managers, and HR personnel responsible for preventing harassment and responding to reports of harassment.