Chicago has adopted a first-of-its-kind ordinance that requires employers doing business in the City to provide separate “bystander” sexual harassment training to their employees. The ordinance seeks to combat workplace misconduct in Chicago and may serve as a model for other municipalities seeking to expand worker protections.

Taking effect July 1, 2022, the ordinance makes Chicago the first jurisdiction to require “bystander” training as a separate component of their general sexual harassment prevention training for employees.

Training guidance published by the Chicago Commission on Human Rights (“CCHR”) defines a “bystander” as “someone who observes some incident but chooses not to get involved” and urges employees to take “safe and positive actions… to prevent harm or intervene where there is a risk or perceived risk of sexual harassment to another.”

The ordinance requires additional training for supervisors and managers and expands the definition of “sexual harassment” to include “sexual misconduct,” which under the new ordinance means “any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.”

Whereas Chicago is not the first to require sexual harassment prevention training, the new ordinance goes above and beyond other municipalities by requiring a separate, one- to two-hour training component expressly aimed at bystander intervention. Failure to comply results in a daily fine of $5,000 to $10,000—a significant increase from the previous $500 to $1,000 fines for violations of the ordinance.

The CCHR recommends that compliant bystander training should include information to help employees:

  • Recognize situations of potential sexual harassment;
  • Understand institutional structures and cultural conditions that facilitate sexual harassment;
  • Overcome barriers to intervening and identifying safe and effective intervention options; and
  • Take action to intervene.

The ordinance is set to impact Chicago employers who, in addition to updating relevant policies, should prepare to comply with these new sexual harassment training requirements.

If you have any questions about the ordinance, please contact the author of this article or any member of Dykema’s Labor and Employment team.