Chicago Strengthens Sexual Harassment Ordinance

Author: Emily Scace, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 1, 2022

Effective July 1, Chicago is amending its sexual harassment ordinance to expand the definition of sexual harassment and to require employers to develop written policies, provide training and keep records to demonstrate compliance.

In addition to the preexisting prohibitions on quid pro quo sexual harassment and sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment, the ordinance's new definition of sexual harassment also includes sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct means any behavior of a sexual nature that involves coercion, abuse of authority or misuse of an individual's employment position.

Under the amendments, any Chicago employer with one or more employees must develop a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment and provide the policy to employees within the first week of employment. The policy must include:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago;
  • The definition of sexual harassment under the ordinance;
  • A requirement that all employees and supervisors participate in annual sexual harassment training;
  • Details of how to report sexual harassment and the legal services available to victims of sexual harassment; and
  • An anti-retaliation statement.

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations plans to develop a model written policy, poster and training templates on or before the ordinance's July 1 effective date.

Employers are also required to conduct annual sexual harassment training that includes:

  • One hour of sexual harassment prevention training;
  • One hour of bystander training; and
  • One additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers.

Records of the employer's written sexual harassment policy, training given to each employee, and any other records necessary to demonstrate an employer's compliance with the ordinance must be kept for at least five years or for the duration of any claim, lawsuit or investigation, whichever is longer.

The ordinance also lengthens the statute of limitations from 300 days to 365 days after the alleged violation. Individuals who are found to have brought a complaint that is clearly frivolous or brought primarily for harassing purposes may be fined between $250 and $1,000.

Employers may be fined between $500 and $1,000 for each violation of the ordinance's policy, training or posting requirements. Other violations may lead to fines between $5,000 and $10,000 per offense.