Illinois: Sexual HarassmentPage 4 of 9

2. Illinois Law on Harassment

I think that there’s still a really significant component in our culture that hasn’t shifted, and maybe has become more entrenched, more dug in, about relationships between men and women in the workplace.

College Professor, 40+
Keplinger et al., 2019

Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA)

All people in Illinois have the right to be free of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a violation of the Civil Rights Act and is prohibited by the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), section 775 ILCS 5/2-102(D).

According to the IHRA, sexual harassment means any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature, when

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment,
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or
  • The conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive “working environment.”* (IHRA, 2019b)

*For purposes of this definition, the phrase working environment is not limited to a physical location an employee is assigned to, to perform his or her duties and does not require an employment relationship (WTA, 2020).

Workplace Transparency Act

[Material in this section is based on 820 ILCS 96/.]

The Illinois Legislature enacted the Workplace Transparency Act (WTA), an expansive piece of legislation designed to prevent all forms of harassment and discrimination in the workplace; it became effective January 1, 2020. Although passed as a reaction to the #MeToo movement, the WTA covers more than just sexual harassment. The WTA expanded the definition of discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act to make clear that it prohibits adverse employment actions based on both a claimant’s actual and perceived protected characteristic. The WTA also expanded the Human Rights Act’s protections so that they apply to nonemployees, including contractors, vendors, and consultants. Employers may be held liable for workplace discrimination or harassment claimed by these nonemployees (Duane Morris, 2020).

The WTA also requires that employers using arbitration agreements make clear that claims of harassment and discrimination are excluded from arbitration requirements. . . . Employers who use nondisclosure or non-disparagement clauses in any agreements with employees―including those found in severance or separation agreements, restrictive covenant agreements, and settlement agreements―must ensure that they reflect additional new requirements provided in the WTA. These requirements generally bar any prohibitions that prevent an employee or former employee from reporting allegations of unlawful conduct to any government agency or otherwise require an employee or former employee to maintain confidentiality regarding unlawful employment practices (Duane Morris, 2020).