New Illinois Harassment Laws: Fighting Workplace Harassment
Concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace are nothing new. Illinois harassment laws are designed to take action against harassment in the state. You need to make sure you take action so your organization remains not only compliant but continues to build a positive culture.
Harassment in the workplace was first formally prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the first sexual harassment cases began to come to the courts in the 1970s—but, the Supreme Court didn’t consider sexual harassment from a legal perspective until the 1980s.
The attention that workplace harassment charges have received in recent years, spurred to a large degree by the #MeToo movement, have played out via social media channels as men and women acknowledge that they, too, have been victims of harassment in the workplace.
The Illinois Workplace Harassment Laws Add Stricter Sexual Harassment Prevention Requirements
In an effort to crack down on this issue that seemingly remains rampant despite decades of attention, Illinois is stepping forward to introduce new and more prohibitive harassment laws in the workplace. Illinois is the most recent state (following New York and California) to introduce such legislation.
Illinois Senate Bill 75 (SB75) seeks to cast a wider net in terms of the employers, and employees, who can benefit from a more stringent approach to regulating training and policies related to sexual harassment in the workplace.
The new law amends the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). In addition to restrictions, the new rule also offers some aid to state employers in the form of training guidelines and access to an online program, offered at no cost, that employers can use “as is” or modify to meet their needs.
But, will it work?
Traditional Sexual Harassment Prevention Efforts Often Fail
Our research and experience suggest that, unfortunately, Illinois harassment training laws may well fail to achieve the outcomes desired. In fact, we know that, despite attention to the issue over the past few decades, many of these traditional training efforts have failed to achieve desired results. Worse, some efforts have created more problems than they solved.
Illinois harassment laws hope to fight sexual harassment in the workplace by broadening the employees covered. By providing specific guidelines and training requirements, the state mandate is designed to nip the problem in the bud. JD Supra has covered the bill and its implications for employers in Illinois:
- Employers should begin preparing now to provide this annually required training
- The IDHR will provide model training programs, but employers are encouraged to supplement that training with information specific to their organization, striving for a respectful working environment
- Illinois employee harassment laws state that all employees must be trained, with a special focus on training managers, supervisors, senior leaders, and even board members
For employers that have already taken steps to reduce or eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, SB75 is another reminder in support of their efforts. If you haven’t yet made an attempt to broaden this training, particularly to segments of the workplace previously unaffected, now is the time. And we have some suggestions to help strengthen the impact of the training.