Last month, Governor Bruce Rauner signed Public Act 100-0554 to, among other things, combat sexual harassment in Illinois. Employers should recognize that several of the Act’s mandates go into effect in the New Year.

First, the Act amends the Illinois Human Rights Act by mandating the Illinois Department of Human Rights establish and maintain a sexual harassment hotline (toll-free telephone with voicemail and an Internet website) by February 16, 2018 through which persons may report instances of sexual harassment. The Act mandates the Department must help persons who use the hotline to find necessary resources, including counseling services, and assist in the filing of sexual harassment complaints with the Department or other applicable agencies. The Act provides that the hotline must provide the means through which persons may anonymously report sexual harassment, and also provides that all communications received by the Department via the hotline remain confidential and shall be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Second, the Act amends the Lobbyist Registration Act by mandating lobbyists complete a sexual harassment training program at least annually beginning January 1, 2018. Lobbyists must complete the training program no later than 30 days after registration or renewal. Moreover, no later than January 1, 2018, lobbyist employers must have a written sexual harassment policy that includes, at a minimum:

  • A prohibition on sexual harassment;
  • Details on how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including options for making a confidential report to a supervisor, ethics officer, Inspector General, or the Department of Human Rights;
  • A prohibition on retaliation for reporting sexual harassment allegations, including availability of whistleblower protections under the State Officials and Employee Ethics Act, the Whistleblower Act, and the Illinois Human Rights Act; and
  • The consequences of a violation of the prohibition on sexual harassment and the consequences for knowingly making a false report.

Additionally, when filing lobbyist registrations or annual renewals, the Act requires a lobbyist employer certify:

  • It has a sexual harassment policy in place that meets the requirements summarized above;
  • Such policy will be made available to any individual within two business days upon written request (including electronic request);
  • Any person may contact the registrant’s authorized agent to report allegations of sexual harassment; and
  • The registrant acknowledges the Secretary of State Inspector General has jurisdiction to review any allegations of sexual harassment alleged against the registrant or lobbyists it hires.

Employers found in violation of the Act may be subject to civil and criminal penalties, independent of any individual causes of action available to sexual harassment victims.

And third, the Act amends the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act to require state government leaders and employees to complete a sexual harassment training program at least annually beginning in 2018. The Act also requires submission of a report that summarizes the sexual harassment training program and includes the names of individuals that failed to complete the required training program.

With these deadlines fast approaching, affected employers without policies should consider implementing them, and employers with existing policies should consider reviewing them to ensure they comply with the Act’s specific requirements.