Chicago’s New Sexual Harassment Prevention Requirements Take Effect July 1

May 23, 2022

The Chicago City Council has passed an ordinance adding significant sexual harassment prevention requirements for employers, including new employer policy, notice, and training obligations; expanded recordkeeping requirements; and stricter penalties for violations.

Comparable to existing California and New York state laws, new sexual harassment prevention requirements are applicable to employers with one or more employees in the City of Chicago that are subject to Chicago licensing requirements or maintain a business facility within city limits. The ordinance is effective as of July 1, 2022.

Policy and Training Requirements

The ordinance imposes new policy and training obligations for Chicago employers. It mandates that by July 1, 2022, employers adopt a written policy that meets certain requirements, including the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
  • The definition of sexual harassment: “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.”
  • Summary of annual training requirements.
  • Examples of sexual harassment.
  • Details about how an employee can report an allegation of sexual harassment, such as making a confidential report, using an internal complaint process, or directly informing a manager or human resources.
  • Information about legal services, including governmental agencies, that are available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment.
  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.

Additionally, the ordinance imposes a requirement that employees participate in the following training annually:

  • All employees must participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training.
  • Supervisors or managers must participate in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training.
  • All employees must participate in one hour of bystander training.

Employers must conduct the first round of trainings required by the ordinance between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023. Compliance is required annually between July 1 and June 30 thereafter.

Notice, Records, and Penalties

Beginning July 1, 2022, employers must provide each employee, within the first calendar week of employment, a copy of the written sexual harassment prevention policy in the employee’s primary language. Employers also must display a poster designed by the Chicago Commission on Human Rights about sexual harassment prohibition. The poster must be displayed in English and Spanish in a place where employees commonly gather. The City of Chicago intends to make the poster available on its website before the July 1 effective date.

Employers must retain a record of the written policy, trainings, and all other records necessary to demonstrate compliance with Section 6-10-040 of the Chicago Municipal Code for at least five years or for the duration of any claim, civil action, or investigation pending pursuant to that section, whichever is longer. Failure to maintain these records creates a presumption, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence, that the employer violated the sexual harassment requirements.

Violations of the written policy, notice, or recordkeeping requirements will result in fines ranging between $500 and $1,000 per day per offense.

Other Notable Changes

The ordinance also amends other sections of the Municipal Code. For example, a complaint must be filed with the Chicago Commission on Human Rights within 365 days (extended from 300 days). In cases of sexual harassment, the Commission may delay issuing notice of a complaint to the employer up to 30 days after it is filed. The Commission maintains the authority to impose a $250 to $1,000 fine on any complainant who makes a filing that the Commission concludes is “clearly frivolous, clearly vexatious, or brought primarily for purposes of harassment.”

The ordinance also modifies the definition of sexual orientation, which now means “a person’s actual or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person.”

Key Differences Between Chicago Ordinance and Illinois Human Rights Act

Since 2020, the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) has required that employers with employees in the State of Illinois provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to employees, among other requirements. While the ordinance and IHRA overlap in some ways, the ordinance imposes several requirements that may not be satisfied by IHRA compliance:

  • The ordinance requires all Chicago employers to implement a written policy on sexual harassment prevention, while the IHRA only requires bars and restaurants to implement such written policies. Moreover, the ordinance’s written policy requirements differ from the IHRA’s requirements.
  • The ordinance enacts more robust training requirements than the IHRA.
  • The ordinance imposes notice and recordkeeping obligations, while the IHRA generally does not.

What Should Chicago Employers Do Now?

Chicago employers should take the following immediate steps to comply with these expanded requirements:

  • Review and revise company sexual harassment prevention policies to ensure that they are compliant with the expanded Chicago requirements.
  • Consult the City of Chicago’s website, which provides guidance on policy, posting, and notice requirements that employers must comply with by July 1, 2022. 
  • Make plans to comply with the new training requirements between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023.


If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, including policy drafting or conducting training, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Sari M. Alamuddin
Jonathan D. Lotsoff
Stephanie L. Sweitzer
Ami N. Wynne

Kimberly B. Altschuler