By Thomas M. Horan and Erin Dougherty Foley

Seyfarth Synopsis: Effective January 1, 2020, the Illinois Workplace Transparency Act (WTA) amended the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to, among other items, require all employers in Illinois to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all employees, and further require additional, industry-specific sexual harassment prevention training for restaurants and bars. The law left many employers with questions as to what was actual required to satisfy their new obligations. On January 31, 2020, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) took the first step to address those questions by launching a website with guidance and FAQs intended to elaborate on the law’s requirements.

On January 31, 2020, IDHR issued guidance for employers on the requirements created by the WTA, announcing the “minimum” standards required in connection with (i) Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Standards for All Employers; (ii) Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Standards for Restaurants and Bars; and (iii) Policy on Sexual Harassment Prevention for Restaurants and Bars, and providing responses to a set of “Frequently Asked Questions.” These documents are all available on the IDHR’s website.

The “minimum” standards documents largely re-state the requirements already contained in the WTA, though each does provide some clarity on the deadline by which covered employers must satisfy their obligations under the new law.

In the responses to “Frequently Asked Questions,” IDHR provided more clarifying information not specifically addressed in the statutory text, including:

  • Employers who have one or more employees are required to train all employees who work or will work in Illinois, including short-term and part-time employees, and interns;
  • Employers are not required to train employees who work outside of Illinois, but should do so for employees physically located in other states who regularly interact with other employees located in Illinois;
  • Employers are not required to train independent contractors, but are “strongly advised” to train independent contractors who (a) work on-site at the employer’s workplace, or (b) interact with the employer’s employees;
  • If employees are required to undergo training outside of working hours, they must be paid for their time; and
  • If employees work at multiple jobs or multiple locations, they do not need to be trained at each one, but employers are responsible for obtaining information demonstrating that each employee received training, and that the training satisfied the law’s requirements.

Although referenced at several places in the newly-issued guidance, IDHR has yet to issue the model harassment training called for in the WTA, stating only that the model training will be available in February of 2020. Once issued, employers may use the model training, develop their own training, or contract with a third party to provide training. To the extent employers do not use the model training, however, they remain responsible for ensuring that the training provided to their employees satisfies the minimum standards established by the model training. IDHR does not plan to certify compliance of trainings developed by third parties.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Firm’s Handbook’s and Policy Development Team.