The Chicago City Council recently enacted legislation aimed at addressing unlawful harassment in Chicago workplaces. This legislation, amending the City's Human Rights Ordinance and applying to all employers with at least one employee working in Chicago's city limits, implements a variety of measures designed to combat harassment in the workplace, including by (i) expanding the definition of sexual harassment, (ii) requiring written sexual harassment policies, (iii) requiring annual sexual harassment prevention and bystander training, (iv) affording employees a longer period to file a complaint of harassment or discrimination, and (v) imposing steeper penalties for harassment and discrimination.

While many of the amendments are currently effective, the written-policy and training-program requirements take effect July 1, 2022.


Enhanced Definition of Sexual Harassment

The amendments expanded the definition of sexual harassment to explicitly include sexual misconduct. The definition states that "sexual misconduct" is "any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual's employment position."

Written-Policy and Notice Requirements

Effective July 1, 2022, Chicago employers must have a written sexual harassment policy. This policy must be provided to every employee in the employee's primary language within the first week of their employment. The policy must contain the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
  • The full definition of sexual harassment (as amended): "any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; or (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment; or (iii) sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual's employment position."
  • A statement that all employees are required to participate in annual sexual harassment prevention and bystander trainings.
  • Examples of prohibited conduct.
  • Details on how to confidentially report sexual harassment (including with an internal complaint form) and the legal services available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment.
  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR) has developed model policies to guide employers in English, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi. Chicago employers will also be required to display a poster designed by the CCHR about the prohibitions on sexual harassment. The poster must be displayed in English and Spanish in a place where employees commonly gather, although the only poster currently available is in English.

Training Programs

The amendments also impose new sexual harassment prevention and bystander-training requirements on Chicago employers, which must now provide the following training annually:

  • One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees (two hours for supervisors and managers).
  • One hour of bystander training for all employees.

The Illinois Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Program, developed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), satisfies the one-hour sexual harassment prevention training for employees. The CCHR is developing training modules for the bystander training required for all employees and for the additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training required for managers and supervisors. Those modules will be available here.

The training-program requirements are effective July 1, 2022, meaning that employers have until June 30, 2023, to provide these trainings for the first time.

Lengthened Statute of Limitations, Steeper Penalties, and Enhanced Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the amendments, complainants now have 365 days (instead of 300) after an alleged discriminatory act, including sexual harassment, to file a complaint with the CCHR.

The amendments also call for a fine of $500–1,000 per day per offense for violations of the written-policy, training-program, and poster requirements, while increasing the mandatory fine paid to the City for discrimination, including sexual harassment, to $5,000–10,000 per offense (instead of $500–1,000 per offense). Other potential damages, including actual damages and attorneys' fees incurred by the complainant, remain available.

The amendments also impose recordkeeping obligations that require Chicago employers to maintain, for at least five years or the duration of any claim, a record of the employer's written sexual harassment policy and the trainings given to each employee. The absence of these records creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer has violated the law.


The amendments create sexual harassment requirements more stringent than those required under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), including:

  • The amendments require a written sexual harassment policy for all Chicago employers; the IHRA requires such a policy only for bars and restaurants.
  • The amendments require bystander training for all employees and a second hour of sexual harassment prevention training for managers and supervisors; the IHRA only requires sexual harassment prevention training for employees.
  • Employees have 65 more days to file a complaint with the CCHR (than if filed with the IDHR).


Chicago employers of all sizes should ensure that their written sexual harassment policies and sexual harassment prevention training and bystander programs meet the minimum requirements of the newly amended Chicago Human Rights Ordinance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.