Sweeping #METOO Laws in the Windy City!

It was a busy month in Illinois as another sweeping employment ordinance was passed. HR professionals and risk managers across the country should take note of what Illinois did in the wake of the #METOO movement, because it is almost certain the tenets of these acts will be lobbied for passage in other states.

The Workplace Transparency Act (WTA), signed into effect on August 9th, 2019, will impact nearly every employer in Illinois. This act attacks four major areas: (1) it significantly restricts the inclusion of non disclosure clauses in employment agreements, (2) limits employer’s ability to include mandatory arbitration clauses, and (3) requires annual harassment training for employees, and (4) requires annual reporting of settlements and judgments with harassment claims.

With Illinois enacting these sweeping standards, we predict other major metropolitan areas will follow suit within the next few years. We previously discussed California and New York passing a similar ordinance and we expect more cities and states to follow.

EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS

First, WTA sets rules applicable to all employment agreements entered or modified after January 1, 2020. The first rule of WTA is that an employer may not enter into a contract or agreement with an employee if the contract has a non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreement. Additionally, an employer may not attempt to enforce such clauses that already exist in employment contracts, essentially it protects employees from entering into contracts where they must keep allegations of harassment or retaliation confidential.

TRAINING REQUIREMENTS

Second, employers must provide annual sexual harassment training to all employees. WTA requires certain topics to be discussed, such as definitions, discussions of employer’s responsibilities, state and federal harassment laws, and examples of harassing conduct.  Non-compliance with this new provision could lead to civil fines up to $5,000.00 per offense.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Third, starting on July 1, 2020, employers must report to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) the number of settlements and judgments the company had involving claims for harassment or unlawful discrimination. This will include harassment based on sex, gender, race, age, disability, etc.

HR professionals and risk managers should take note of what Illinois, California, and New York have done because other states are certain to follow their lead on this subject. If you have any questions, please contact us at 651-389-5000 or myhrgenius@thompsoncoe.com to discuss with an attorney.

Kevin Mosher