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Chicago City Council Expands Sexual Harassment Laws
Thursday, May 19, 2022

On April 27, 2022, the Chicago City Council passed Ordinance 2022-665 (the “Ordinance”) amending the Municipal Code to enhance the City’s prohibitions on sexual harassment in the workplace. The amendments include, among other things, modified definitions of “sexual orientation” and “sexual harassment,” a new written policy requirement for employers, increased sexual harassment prevention training requirements, and stricter penalties for violations.  The amendments take effect on July 1, 2022.

Amended Definition of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Orientation

The Ordinance amends the definition of sexual orientation in the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, such that sexual orientation is now defined as “a person’s actual or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person.” The Ordinance also amends the definition of sexual harassment to include sexual misconduct.

Written Policy Requirements

Under the Ordinance, employers must now have a written policy that is provided to employees in their primary language within the first calendar week of employment.  The policy must include the following:

  • The definition of sexual harassment, which is defined in the Ordinance as “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 (a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual, or (c) 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 sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.

  • A requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually.

  • Examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment.

  • Details on (i) how an employee can report an allegation of sexual harassment (including, as appropriate, instructions on how to make a confidential report, with an internal complaint form, to a manager, corporate headquarters or human resources, or other internal reporting mechanism); and (ii) information about legal services, including governmental agencies, that are available to employees who may be victims or sexual harassment.

  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.

Training Requirements

The Ordinance includes increased sexual harassment prevention training requirements.  Employees must participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually, while managers and supervisors must participate in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually.  Also, all employees must also participate in one hour of bystander training annually.

Posting and Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers must display, in at least one location where employees commonly gather, posters designed by the Commission on sexual harassment prohibitions.  Employers must display at least one poster in English and one in Spanish.

Employers also must retain written records of the policies and trainings given to each employee, as well as other records necessary to show compliance with the Ordinance, for a period of at least five years or the duration of any claim, civil action, or investigation pending pursuant to the ordinance, whichever is longer.  Failure to maintain the required records creates a presumption, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence, that an employer violated the Ordinance.

Statute of Limitations

Employees will now have 365 days, instead of 300 days, to report all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment, to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.  In addition, in cases of sexual harassment, the Commission may delay issuing a complaint to the respondent for up to 30 days after it is filed.  (This is intended help to mitigate any retaliation such as a denial of a reasonable accommodation request under the Illinois Victim’s Economic and Security Act (VESSA)).

Potential Penalties

The Ordinance increases penalties for all forms of discrimination from the previous $500 – $1,000 per violation, to $5,000 – $10,000.


Employers with operations in Chicago should promptly revisit their anti-harassment and discrimination policies and practices to ensure compliance with the new amendments.


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