Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Governor Pritzker Signs the Workplace Transparency Act, Imposing Many New Obligations on Employers

Last month Governor Pritzker signed into law S.B. 75, the Workplace Transparency Act. The Act, aimed at addressing harassment in the workplace, imposes many new obligations on employers. Here are some of them:

Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training. It is now mandatory for all employers, no matter their size, to provide sexual harassment training to their employees at least once a year. Failure to conduct this annual sexual harassment training could result in a $500 fine to businesses with four employees or fewer for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense, and $3,000 for each offense after that. For businesses with more than four employees the fines double.

The training must include a summary of state and federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment along with the remedies available to sexual harassment victims. It must also explain what the employer will do to investigate and prevent sexual harassment. An explanation of sexual harassment and examples of what constitutes sexual harassment must also be included. The Department of Human Rights will develop a model sexual harassment training program.

Limits the use of confidentiality provisions for sexual harassment. Strict confidentiality in any settlement agreement for sexual harassment is only valid if the provision is expressly consented to by the alleged victim of sexual harassment and the alleged victim has a chance to hire an attorney and have the attorney review the settlement agreement. It also provides the alleged victim with 21 days to consider the settlement agreement and 7 days to revoke his or her signature.

All employers must report the number of times their employers were found to have engaged in sexual harassment by a court or other proceeding. This must be reported to the Illinois Department of Human Rights by July 1, 2020, and then each July 1 thereafter. The Department of Human Rights can also request that employers disclose the number of private settlements for sexual harassment over the previous five years.

Victims of gender violence can take unpaid leave from work to seek help. The law expands the Victims Economic Security & Safety Act to allow victims of gender-motivated violence to seek medical assistance, counseling, and legal assistance.

The law makes sexual harassment and discrimination against independent contractors illegal.

All restaurant and bar employees must receive an anti-harassment and discrimination policy. This policy must be available in both English and Spanish and must discuss sexual harassment issues specific to employees in bars and restaurants.

All hotel and casinos must create sexual harassment policies specific to their industry and install panic buttons. The policies must have language that states that an employee complaining of sexual harassment is allowed to leave work or any area in the workplace if he or she feels threatened. It provides these employees with paid time off to file a police report against the sexual harasser. Panic buttons must be installed by July 1, 2020.

Alleged victims and harassers cannot be represented by the same union representative in a disciplinary proceeding. 

The law takes effect on January 1, 2020. This is less than three months away, so employers should start preparing to comply with it. Ancel Glink offers sexual harassment training at an affordable price, so feel free to reach out to us if you would like to inquire about this service.