Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Local Governments Must Formally Adopt Sexual Harassment Policies Under New Illinois Sexual Harassment Law


Public Act 100-0554 was signed by Governor Rauner and became law on November 16, 2017. In the wake of renewed awareness that sexual harassment remains prevalent in the workplace, the new law expands traditional protections against sexual harassment in employment by extending the scope of the law's prohibitions, by increasing penalties imposed on sexual harassers, and by providing new avenues of recourse for victims of sexual harassment. It also imposes new obligations on units of local government. Perhaps most significantly, the definition of "sexual harassment" in the new law does not require the existence of an employment relationship in order to be actionable.

For municipalities, park districts, school districts, townships, libraries, and other units of local government, the law requires each entity to adopt an ordinance or resolution establishing a policy to prohibit sexual harassment within 60 days of the new law, or by January 16, 2018. While most local governments already have personnel policies that include prohibitions against sexual harassment, not all of these policies were formally adopted by ordinance or resolution, and many do not have all of the protections or definitions required by the new statute. In particular, the prohibition against retaliation for reporting sexual harassment includes a required reference to the "availability of whistleblower protections under this Act, the Whistleblower Act, and the Illinois Human Rights Act".

Given the differences between the typical sexual harassment policy and the requirements imposed by this new law, we recommend that you review your harassment policy to ensure it complies with the new law and have your governing body adopt the updated policy by ordinance or resolution. We are happy to assist in both the review of your policy and the drafting of an appropriate ordinance or resolution to fully comply with P.A. 100-0554. Contact the Ancel Glink attorney with whom you regularly work or alternatively, you may contact Margaret Kostopulos (tel. 312.604.9106) or Don Anderson (tel. 847.247.7400) for assistance.

It is important that you take action prior to January 16, 2018.