Over the last several weeks, we have all been focused on keeping our employees and families safe and our businesses operating as much as possible. Many of us have also been navigating the various new laws related to COVID-19 epidemic. However, we also need to keep in mind preparing for and complying with changes to other employment-related laws. This post focuses on recent changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”).
Last year, Illinois passed the Workplace Transparency Act (“WTA”), which, among other things, amended the IHRA. Under these revisions, the definition of “employer” was expanded and new obligations were placed on Illinois employers.
Expansion of the Definition of “Employer”
Generally, the IHRA prohibits Illinois employers from discriminating against its employees, including discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, military status, sexual orientation, and pregnancy. Historically (and with a few exceptions), only employers with more than 15 employees were required to comply with the IHRA. This is consistent with Federal laws, like Title VII, the ADEA, and the FMLA, which have small employer exclusions.
However, beginning July 1, 2020, all employers with one or more employees will be subject to the IHRA. This means that many small employers, which were previously exempt from the IHRA, will now have to comply with the IHRA when making human resource decisions.
Sexual Harassment Training
Beginning in 2020, the IHRA also requires every employer in Illinois to provide sexual harassment training annually to all of its employees. The FAQ’s regarding the training can be found here: FAQ for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) was tasked with creating a model program for employers to use for this required training. After months of delay, the IDHR has finally published its model sexual harassment training program. See State of Illinois Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Program.
Employers may use the model program or their own program if it meets certain statutory requirements. We can assist you with creating a model that suits your particular business needs.
Additional Training Required by Bars and Restaurants
Under the revisions to the IHRA, bars and restaurants have additional requirements to prevent sexual harassment. The IDHR has not released the supplemental training model for restaurants and bars. The IDHR states the program is “forthcoming.” Additionally, employees must receive a written sexual harassment policy within their first calendar week of employment. The policy must also be available in both English and Spanish and meet certain statutory requirements.
The revisions to the IHRA also require disclosure of adverse judgments or administrative rulings related to discrimination claims. These disclosures are due annually by July 1st, with the first being due July 1, 2020. We assume the IDHR will create a form for these disclosures. However, at this time, the procedure for making these disclosures is unclear.
The attorneys at Reno & Zahm LLP will continue to monitor the IDHR website for additional guidance, and we will endeavor to provide regular updates when warranted. Please contact us with any questions. We are here to help you make it through these challenging times.