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Chicago Commission on Human Relations

Updated to the law regarding the Chicago Commission on Human Rights.

On April 27, 2022, the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance (“CHRO”) was amended and provides for several things, including protection for sexual harassment victims and also new requirements for businesses in Chicago.  The CHRO applies to any employer in the city of Chicago with one or more employees. 

Effective as of June 4, 2022, the definition of sexual harassment was changed to include sexual misconduct. 

On April 27, 2022, the Chicago City Council amended the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance (“CHRO”). The amendments bolster the city’s sexual harassment laws and include enhanced protections for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Under the changed and amended ordinance, “sexual harassment” is now defined as any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; (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.  As you can see by (iii), the new term of sexual misconduct was added.

The amendments also modified the definition of “sexual orientation” to now mean “a person’s actual or perceived sexual and emotional attraction, or lack thereof, to another person” rather than “the actual or perceived state of heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.” These new terms could add years to litigation as they make their way through the legal system and Judges make case law.

As of June 4, 2022, victims of all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment or misconduct, will now have 365 days to file instead of 300 days, which was the old time period.   The EEOC and IDHR have a 300 day time period, so in cases where that 300 day period don’t apply, a potential victim has an additional 65 days.
Also penalties for violations of the Ordinance have increased substantially. Each offense now carries penalties of between $5,000 to $10,000  which is a substantial increase from the former penalties of  $100 to $1,000.  But the biggest change is that each additional day a company is found to be in violation will constitute a separate and distinct offense. So the penalties could add up very quickly.

As of July 1, 2022, all employers in Chicago must have a written policy on sexual harassment which includes:

  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago;
  • The updated definition of sexual harassment consistent with the new ordinance;
  • A requirement that employees participate in annual sexual harassment training;
  • The company must provide examples of sexual harassment in its training;
  • Information on how individuals can report sexual harassment including, as appropriate, details on how to make confidential reports, with an internal complaint form, to managers, corporate headquarters, human resources, or other internal reporting mechanisms;
  • Information on legal and governmental services available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment;
  • A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago;

Employers must provide the written policy in the employee’s primary language within the first calendar week of employment.-therefore it should be included in an employee handbook during orientation. 

 Also, employers must display a poster on sexual harassment prohibitions in an area visible to employees. The poster must be displayed in both English and Spanish. A poster will be made available to employers on the City of Chicago’s website by July 1, 2022.

And all employers must provide the following annual training:

  • One hour of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees;
  • An additional hour of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors/managers;
  • One hour of bystander training for all employees;

Employers may use the model sexual harassment prevention training program prepared by the State of Illinois that is required under the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) to fulfill the sexual harassment prevention training for employees. Training modules for the additional hour of training and for bystander training will be made available on the City of Chicago’s website by July 1, 2022.

  If you have been the victim of discrimination in Chicago you have multiple places to file a complaint.  Choosing the right venue is very important and can mean the difference of thousands of dollars.  One venue is the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR“).  The IDHR investigates violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act.   In Chicago one can also file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“).  This venue is based on federal law and allows you to file a complaint in federal court.  There is also a third option.  If the discrimination took place in the city of Chicago you can file a discrimination complaint with the Chicago Department of Human Relations.   It takes an experienced lawyer to decide which option is best for you.   This determination is done on a case-by-case basis.

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations (“CCHR“) investigates complaints based on violations of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance.   Even though both the Act and Ordinance are similar there are a few distinctions.  One major advantage to filing with the CCHR is that you can ask for punitive damages.  This is very important in cases where the actual damages don’t amount to much.  The CCHR investigates the same categories of discrimination that the IDHR investigates.  However the CCHR is a city agency and not governed by state law.  Things can get tricky at that agency because the rules are a little different than in other venues.  It takes experience to navigate this system.  And it takes an attorney who is willing to go up against large law firms.

The categories include sexual harassment, race, national origin, ancestry, gender,  religion. sexual orientation, gender identity, retaliation, marital status, parental status, disability, age, source of income, and military discharge.  As you can see there are quite a few categories of discrimination that are covered.  For this reason a decision has to be made on where to file.  There are many options and choosing the right venue is very important.  Sometimes I choose this venue because I think it will give you an advantage over federal court. 

It is very important that you contact an attorney who practices employment law and understand the hostile work environment that can be created in the workplace.  I work hard for my clients and I am skilled at negotiating settlements that are favorable to my clients.  Remember that the companies will have top lawyers working on their behalf. You can’t go it alone and think you will be on equal footing.  Even though this is happening to you for the first time, in many cases the company has gone through this before.  They know the defense they want to put forward.  Their attorneys are skilled at getting evidence and witness statements.  You need to be protected when you go up against this type of large and powerful group.

If you are the victim of discrimination in housing, at school or at work please contact my office for a free consultation.  There is never a charge to discuss your case.  Email me at plasorsa@gmail.com or call 312-505-5038 and ask for Pete.  Remember there are always very strict time limits for filing your complaint and they can’t be extended.  Don’t lose your employment rights by failing to act in a timely manner.  You don’t get a second chance when it comes to protecting your employment rights.

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