Compliance Alert – City of Chicago Employers

On July 1, 2022, new obligations will be placed on Chicago employers under the City’s heightened sexual harassment protections for employees. The amendments to the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance (Ord. 2022-665) were only passed by the City Council on April 27, 2022 – are you and your business compliant? A quick guide for a seamless transition for your HR department into the new summertime protections follows below.

Who needs to keep reading?

The Ordinance applies to any business, partnership, entity, or person that employs at least one employee in the City of Chicago in the current or preceding calendar year (in 2021 or 2022), and is subject to City licensing requirements or maintains a business facility within the City limits.

An employee under the Ordinance means anyone who is engaged to work within the City limits for monetary or other valuable consideration.

What is new?

  • Employers will be required to have a written sexual harassment policy.
  • The definition of sexual harassment will expand.
  • Employers will be required to provide increased sexual harassment training.
  • Longer notification and reporting periods.
  • Longer recordkeeping requirements.
  • Penalties will increase tenfold.
What should covered employers do before July 1?
  • Review and revise your existing sexual harassment policy to include the following, newly required language. The policy must be provided to employees in their primary language.
    1. A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
    2. The new definition of sexual harassment: any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; or (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employments, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual or, (3) 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 (iii) sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.
    3. A description of new requirements for sexual harassment training for all employees (provided below).
    4. Examples of conduct prohibited under the policy (i.e. examples of sexual harassment).
    5. The procedure for how employees should report sexual harassment, including the employer’s confidential reporting mechanism and including legal services available to those who may be victims.
    6. A statement noting that retaliation for reports of sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
    7. A model policy is expected to be made available on the City’s website.
  • Provide required annual sexual harassment training to all employees. At least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training is required for all employees, supervisors and managers must receive two hours of such training each year. In addition, one hour of bystander training is required for all employees annually. Templates for such trainings are expected to be available on the City’s website.
  • Understand that employees now have 365 days (increased from 300 days) from the alleged violation to report discrimination or harassment to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (the “Commission”). Understand further that the Commission now has to notify the employer of a sexual harassment complaint within 30 days (compared to only 10 days for other forms of discrimination).
  • Amend recordkeeping policies and procedures to reflect that employers must retain written records regarding compliance with the Ordinance for 5 years, longer if there is a pending legal claim or investigation.
  • Be compliant. Employers may now be penalized $5,000 - $10,000 per violation of the sexual harassment provisions of the Ordinance, a 10X increase from the previous penalty structure.
Contact Kelley Drye’s Chicago-based employment lawyers, Matt Luzadder and Tyler Bohman, before July 1st with any questions or concerns you may have about this Ordinance.