The City of Chicago has amended the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance (the “Ordinance”) to create additional protections against sexual harassment and new compliance requirements for Chicago employers.  As these amendments take effect July 1, 2022, covered employers would be wise to comply sooner rather than later.


Summary of Coverage under Current Ordinance

The current Ordinance generally prohibits employers, employees, agents of employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations from engaging in sexual harassment.  The current Ordinance also prohibits discrimination against employees or applicants because of their race, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, military status, source of income, and credit history.

The Ordinance applies to employers that employ one or more employees and that (i) maintain a business facility within the City of Chicago’s geographic boundaries or (ii) are subject to Chicago licensing requirements.  

Summary of Amendments to Ordinance

Chicago employers covered by the Ordinance should prepare for the following major changes under the amendments:

  1. An Expanded Definition of What Constitutes Sexual Harassment

The amendments significantly expand the definition of sexual harassment to specifically include “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” and “sexual misconduct.”  The definition of prohibited “sexual harassment” under the amended Ordinance includes:

  • unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature;
  • requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when: (i) submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (ii) an individual’s submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual, or (iii) 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
  • sexual misconduct (i.e., any behavior of a sexual nature that also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position).
  1. Written Sexual Harassment Policy and Posting Requirements

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

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago
  • The definition of sexual harassment as defined in the Ordinance
  • A requirement that all employees annually participate in at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training and at least one hour of bystander training.  Anyone who supervises or manages employees must also participate in at least one additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually.
  • Examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment
  • Details on how an individual can report sexual harassment allegations, including, as appropriate, instructions on how to make a confidential report, with an internal complaint form, to a manager, the employer’s corporate headquarters or human resources department, or another internal reporting mechanism
  • Details on legal services, including governmental, available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment
  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago

The written policy must be provided in an employee’s primary language within the first calendar week of that employee starting employment.

Chicago employers must also “conspicuously display” the City of Chicago’s required posters about the prohibitions on sexual harassment in both English and Spanish. The Ordinance requires that these posters be displayed in at least one location where employees commonly gather. To the extent that employees have not fully returned to work in person, employers may want to consider additional ways to display the posters for its remote employees.

The City of Chicago is expected to make available model harassment policies—including in Spanish, Polish, simplified Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi—and the required posters by July 1, 2022, when the amended Ordinance takes effect.

  1. Annual Training Requirements

As noted above, the amendments require Chicago employers to provide the following trainings every year:

  • 1 hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees;
  • 1 hour of bystander training for all employees; and
  • 1 additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors/managers. 

Chicago employers must conduct the required trainings on an annual basis beginning July 1, 2022.  This means that employees must complete their first annual required trainings by June 30, 2023.  An employer may use the annual sexual harassment prevention training already required by the Illinois Human Rights Act to satisfy the one-hour sexual harassment prevention training requirement for all employees.  Ideally, the extra hour of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors/managers will be conducted separate and apart from all employee trainings.

  1. New Recordkeeping Requirements

The amendments require Chicago employers to maintain for at least five years (or for the duration of any pending claim, civil, action, or investigation under the Ordinance, if longer) a record of the employer’s written sexual harassment policy and trainings given to each employee as well as other records necessary to demonstrate compliance with the Ordinance.

  1. Increased Time to File Claims

The amendments provide victims with 365 days (instead of 300 days) after an alleged violation of the Ordinance to report all forms of discrimination prohibited by the Ordinance, including sexual harassment, by filing a complaint with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

  1. Increased Penalties

The amendments also significantly increase the penalties for “any person” who violates the Ordinance—whether sexual harassment or any other forms of discrimination prohibited under the Ordinance—to $5,000–$10,000 for each offense (previously $100–$1,000 for each offense).  Every day that a violation continues constitutes a separate and distinct offense.

Conclusion and Next Steps
Parts of the amended Ordinance impose stricter requirements for Chicago employers than under current federal and state laws that may apply, such as the Illinois Human Rights Act.  For example, the Ordinance requires annual bystander training for all employees and that managers must have two hours of annual sexual harassment prevention training.  Chicago employers may want to consult with legal counsel regarding the implications of these amendments for their individual business, including any necessary updates to their existing anti-harassment or discrimination policies and compliance with the new training, poster, and recordkeeping requirements.

FVLD publishes updates on legal issues and summaries of legal topics for its clients and friends. They are merely information and do not constitute legal advice. We welcome comments or questions.
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