Since the beginning of the #metoo movement, many organizations have paid lip service to the idea that we need to get serious about ending sexual harassment in the workplace. But words mean little if they aren’t followed by action. That’s why the Vaziri Law LLC team wants to draw attention to a proposal that is currently pending before the Chicago City Council.
On April 27, the City Council will vote on a proposed change to Chicago law that would strengthen the city’s ban on sexual harassment. The Vaziri Law LLC team handles a lot of employment law cases, so we are closely monitoring this proposed ordinance.
Adding Some Teeth To Chicago’s Sexual Harassment Ordinance
The proposed ordinance would add some teeth to the existing law. Specifically, the new law would:
- Expand and clarify the definition of sexual harassment.
- Require Chicago employers of all sizes to have a written policy against sexual harassment, and clearly communicate to employees information about how to report harassment.
- Increase the maximum fine for violating the city’s prohibition on sexual harassment from $5,000 to $10,000.
- Increase the amount of times victims have to come forward from 300 days to 365 days.
- Allow employees to request that city officials wait 30 days to contact their employer about their complaint so the employee has an opportunity to request a new work schedule or location.
- Require employers to provide their supervisors and managers with two hours of training on how to prevent and address sexual harassment every year.
- Require all employees to get an additional hour of training on how to intervene if they witness sexual harassment. This would be in addition to the hour that is already required under Illinois law.
These are significant changes that should give Chicago employees a new tool for fighting sexual harassment. However, it is important to note that this city ordinance is intended to serve as an additional means of deterring harassment, not as a replacement for state or federal employment laws.
Employees who believe they have been harassed should seek legal advice by contacting Vaziri Law LLC. Our experienced team can advise you if you should consider suing your employer in state or federal court in addition to/instead of filing a complaint against them with the city.
According to WTTW, only five sexual harassment complaints were filed with city officials in 2021. Far more lawsuits were filed during this same period, so it will be interesting to see if more employees take advantage of the city ordinance if it is strengthened.
What’s The Next Step?
The proposed ordinance, which is backed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, unanimously passed the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee on April 12. Its next stop is the full City Council, which is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting on April 27. If passed, it will then head to the mayor to be signed into law and implemented by July 1. Vaziri Law LLC will continue to monitor the proposal, and discuss it with our employment law clients when appropriate. Anyone with questions about how it may impact them should contact our office.