Illinois Enacts Sweeping Anti-Harassment, Pay Equity Changes, and Expands its Human Rights Law
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Last Updated: 10/19/2021
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Similar to some state legislatures in 2019, the Illinois State Legislature focused on issues pertaining to respect and civility in the workplace, equal pay, and expanding human rights laws to apply to a greater number of employers. Three bills were recently signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker that will alter the landscape for employers in these arenas.
- SB 75 includes:
- HB 834 – Equal Pay Act
- HB 252 – Amendments to Human Rights Act
What Illinois Employers Need to Know About Changes in the Law
On Aug. 9, 2019, SB 75 was signed into law. This omnibus law includes several stand-alone laws and amendments to other laws. SB 75 includes the Workplace Transparency Act, the Sexual Harassment Victim Representation Act, the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act, and amendments to the Equal Pay and Human Rights laws in Illinois.
What is the Workplace Transparency Act?
Under the Workplace Transparency Act
- Employers will be required to provide sexual harassment training with that meets specific elements.
- Restaurant and bar employers will be required to provide additional supplemental training.
- Employers will be subject to new penalties for non-compliance.
- Employers will be required to comply with mandatory annual disclosures involving harassment and discrimination prevention.
What are the Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Requirements under the WTA?
Effective Jan. 1, 2020, covered employers must annually deliver sexual harassment prevention training that must:
- Be interactive
- Explain and provide examples of sexual harassment
- Provide examples of prohibited conduct
- Summarize relevant federal and state law and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
- Describe the employer’s responsibilities under applicable law
The training must equal or exceed the standards provided under a model training program not yet published by the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The WTA does not address when employers must complete their initial annual harassment prevention training. It is anticipated that regulations will be published providing additional information for employers.
What are the additional requirements under the WTA for the restaurant and bar industry?
Employers in the restaurant and bar industry will have additional responsibilities, effective Jan. 1, 2020, related to:
- Supplemental Industry-Specific Training. In addition to the model training program addressed above, the WTA requires the Illinois Department of Labor to develop a supplemental model training program specifically aimed at the prevention of sexual harassment in the restaurant and bar industry. The supplemental model program will be made available employers at no cost. Every restaurant and bar employer must use the supplemental training program or establish its own model training that equals or exceeds the requirements in the WTA.
- Written Sexual Harassment Policy. Every restaurant and bar operating in Illinois must have a sexual harassment policy provided to all employees, in writing, within the first calendar week of the employee’s start date. The policy must include:
- A prohibition on sexual harassment
- The definition of sexual harassment
- Details on how to report an allegation of sexual harassment internally (including options for making a confidential report to a manager, owner, corporate headquarters, HR department, or other internal reporting mechanism that may be available)
- An explanation of the internal complaint process available to employees, how to contact and file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC
- A prohibition on retaliation for reporting sexual harassment allegations
- A requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training
Are there penalties for employers who fail to provide the required training under the WTA?
Yes. If an employer fails to comply with the sexual harassment prevention training requirements within the WTA, the employer might be subject to a civil penalty that is dependent on the size of the employer and whether it is the first, second, or third or subsequent offense. This applies to the general training requirements as well as the additional requirements for restaurant and bar employers.
What are the requirements of Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act?
The Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act requires hotel and casino employers to equip an employee who is assigned to work in a guest room, restroom, or casino floor, in circumstances where no other employee is present, with a safety device or notification device. The employee may use the device to summon help if the employee reasonably believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other emergency is occurring in the employee’s presence. The device must be provided to the employee at no cost to them.
In addition, hotel and casino employers must develop, maintain, and comply with a written anti-sexual harassment policy to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests. This policy must have specific language (SB 75, pages 113-115) within the written policy. Each employer shall provide all employees with a current copy in English and Spanish of the employer's anti-sexual harassment policy and post the policy in English and Spanish in conspicuous places in areas of the hotel or casino. Each employer shall also make all reasonable efforts to provide employees with a current copy of its written anti-sexual harassment policy in any language other than English and Spanish that, in its sole discretion, is spoken by a predominant portion of its employees.
The Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act is effective July 1, 2020.
What Annual Disclosures are Required Under Illinois’ SB 75?
Beginning July 1, 2020, and by July 1 each year thereafter, all private or public employers, labor organizations, and parties to a public contract are required to report annually any settlement, adverse judgment, or administrative ruling against them, involving harassment or discrimination, to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The required disclosures include the total number of settlements or judgments and those settlements and judgments based on each characteristic protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.
What additional provisions are contained within this SB 75?
- Expands the state’s Human Rights Act by amending the definition of “unlawful discrimination” to include discrimination and harassment based on an individual’s actual or perceived sex, race, or other protected status.
- Prohibits unions from assigning the same union representative to victim and alleged harasser in disciplinary proceedings.
- Places limitations on the use of non-disclosure clauses.
- Expands the Victims Economic Safety Act to offer protections for victims of gender violence.
What Employers Need to Know about Recent Amendments to the Illinois Equal Pay Act
Illinois will join the growing number of states that prohibit employers from asking about or considering a job applicant’s prior salary history when making hiring decisions. The amendments in HB 834 will also modify an exception to the equal pay requirement that, in certain circumstances, allows employers to pay different wages to employees who work substantially similar jobs, and the amendments will expand the types and amounts of damages that are available for equal pay violations. Under the amendments, Illinois will prohibit employers and employment agencies from:
- Screening job applicants based on their current or prior wages or salary histories
- Requesting or requiring salary history as a condition of being considered for employment, interviewed, or receiving an offer of employment
- Requesting or requiring that an applicant disclose salary history as a condition of employment
These amendments to the Equal Pay Act were effective Aug. 29, 2019.
What Employers Need to Know About Recent Amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act
On Aug. 20, 2019, the governor signed HB 252, which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act. The current law provides that employers with 15 or more employees are subject to the Illinois Human Rights Law. Under the amendment, effective July 1, 2020, the definition of employer will expand to include employers with one or more employees.
Illinois employers should review the new legal requirements. Paychex will continue to monitor for any updates from Illinois for details about training and educational materials. In addition to providing the sexual harassment prevention training described above (model training is available from the state), restaurants and bars are required to provide supplemental sexual harassment prevention training that complies with the law. The IDHR has now released a model supplement training as well. Both trainings can be accessed on the Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Program website. We can also provide additional support to help your business with its HR needs, including helping keep you up to date on federal and state regulations that affect compliance.
This article originally was published Sept. 20, 2020.