Over the past few years, the visibility of sexual harassment and assault at work has heightened dramatically, and for good reason. It’s estimated that, while more than half of women have experienced unwanted sexual advancements, 87-94% of victims never file a complaint. This brush-under-the-rug mentality has resulted in fewer than 1 in 5 companies holding training or reviewing their harassment policies, likely because they don’t realize they have to.
Luckily, in Illinois, that is about to change.
In an effort to address this pervasive issue, a statewide mandate for annual sexual harassment training is going into effect in 2020. The Workplace Transparency Act requires employers to educate their staff on the importance of appropriate conduct in the workplace, specifically regarding sexual harassment and discrimination.
The legislation will be effective beginning January 1st, 2020, and employers will have one year to provide Harassment Prevention training to their employees and supervisors. All employees and supervisors should have received this training by January 1, 2021 to remain in compliance with the Act.
According to the Act, Illinois employers must provide sexual harassment training to all staff members on an annual basis. Bars and restaurants must also provide a written copy of their sexual harassment policy to all employees within one calendar week of an employee’s hire. Guidelines for sexual harassment policies and training are included in the Act.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) will be publishing a model Harassment Prevention training program that companies can use as a guideline to supplement their current training programs with. Bars and restaurants will be required to provide additional training, for which the IDHR will also provide a model. These training resources will be made available online for use at no cost to employers. According to the Act, Harassment Prevention training should include:
Non-compliant employers will be subject to civil penalties, including a $500 penalty to businesses with less than 4 employees and a $1,000 penalty to those with more than 4 employees. Any subsequent violations can rise up to $5,000 per violation.
The legal costs for non-compliance don’t necessarily end there. If a victim files formal charges against a colleague, your business is likely to be caught in the crosshairs, becoming vulnerable to further expenses for tolerating the harassment. The EEOC publishes all financial settlements it reaches on behalf of employees and in 2017, the total payout for employees in relation to sexual harassment charges was $46.3 million. This figure does not even include the countless settlements without EEOC litigation that remain undisclosed.
Along with a monetary loss, lack of harassment training could leave your SMB to face even more penalties, such as increased turnover or reduced productivity and performance, which will also negatively impact your bottom-line.
Of course. The IDHR model is in the process of being created and will cover the basic requirements to ensure that your training is lawful. As of publishing this blog, the model has yet to be developed, so employers will need to watch for its availability and any additional changes in the requirements.
Instead of wasting valuable time waiting for the model to be distributed, or if you would like support in developing a compliant and customized training for your organization, you could partner with a PEO that offers robust management and employee training, like Synergy. We work directly with members of your organization at every level, identifying, addressing, and preventing sexual harassment. Our experts have been providing Chicagoland businesses with personalized training programs for years and have the tools to impart sexual harassment knowledge that benefits your team and ensures employees and supervisors understand how to create a respectful, harassment-free work environment.