Post Authored by Yara Mroueh
The Illinois Public Act (“the Act”) is intended to combat workplace harassment and provide greater protections for Illinois employees. To do this, the Act created new obligations for employers related to employment contracts, training and agency oversight and strengthened the Illinois Human Rights Act. Most of the Act went into effect on January 1, 2020. Other provisions will apply on February 1, 2020, and July 1, 2020.
The Illinois Human Rights Act protects Illinois employees, tenants, students and others from sexual harassment. The Act strengthens the Human Rights Act by enacting the following anti-harassment provisions: the Workplace Transparency Act, the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act, new training requirements, arbitration clause restrictions, and mandatory disclosures to the Illinois Department of Human Rights for employers with at least one adverse determination of sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination in the prior year. Additionally, the Illinois Public Act amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to allow non-employees in the workplace, including contractors and consultants, to bring harassment claims accruing after January 1, 2020. One notable amendment to the Human Rights Act requires the Illinois Department of Human Rights to produce a model training guide that will prevent sexual harassment and will be accessible to both Illinois employers and the public. All Illinois employers must use either the Department’s guide or establish a training program that equals or exceeds the statutory standards. Any employer that does not comply with the statutory requirements is subject to civil penalties.
The Workplace Transparency Act went into effect on January 1, 2020. It prohibits employers from contractually restricting a prospective, current or former employee’s ability to report allegations of unlawful conduct, including discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Additionally, it prohibits unilateral employment conditions requiring current or prospective employees to waive, arbitrate or otherwise diminish existing or future claims of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation. The full text of the Workplace Transparency Act provides detailed provisions that would void unilateral agreements between an employer and current or future employee.
Further, the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act will go into effect on July 1, 2020. It requires hotels and casinos to develop and implement a written anti-sexual harassment policy. The policy must include reporting procedures, immediate steps to take in response to perceived harassment, the opportunity for temporary work reassignments and paid time off when participating in legal proceedings. In addition to the workplace anti-harassment policy, hotels and casinos are required to give employees a “safety or notification device” that would summon immediate help in a perceived emergency. Further, retaliation must not occur against an employee using the safety device.
The Illinois Public Act enacted hundreds of new requirements for Illinois employers in response to the #metoo movement and in an effort to further prevent workplace harassment and retaliation. Illinois employers should review these new requirements, guidelines, and policies to ensure compliance. Further, all Illinois employees should understand their rights under this Act if they are faced with workplace harassment and discrimination.
About the Author:
Yara Mroueh is an associate attorney at Gordon & Rees, where she focuses her practice primarily in the areas of products and premises liability, insurance defense, toxic tort, and commercial litigation. Yara is active in all phases of litigation, from investigating the facts, settlement negotiations, and pre-trial preparation. As part of her practice, Yara enjoys taking depositions and drafting complex motions in state and federal matters. Yara’s bilingual skills provide her a unique opportunity to connect with clients and achieve the best possible outcome.