In Normal, Illinois, a former secretary with the McLean County Unit 5 School District filed a lawsuit Monday in a US District Court alleging Unit 5 failed to protect her from sexual harassment complaints. LaNell Greenberg claims she was the victim of several unwanted sexual harassment incidents by the district’s former human resources chief James Harden. Harden resigned in 2019 after investigations into his conduct by the district. Greenberg said she brought the complaints to Unit 5 leaders but said they didn’t address her concerns. She resigned in 2018 saying in the lawsuit she was forced to and now claiming her civil rights were violated.

What’s odd is that a Unit 5 district spokesperson said they had not yet received a complaint regarding the case. Hopefully, such incidents will be only events of the past, as Illinois is on track for the establishment of sexual harassment training in employment settings. As a part of last year’s changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act, all Illinois employers are required to provide sexual harassment training for all employees and management personnel on an annual basis, with the first compliance period ending December 31, 2020.  

Sexual Harassment Training 

Employers may satisfy this requirement by using the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) model sexual harassment training, available from the agency’s website, by developing their own sexual harassment training program, or by bringing in a trainer to conduct sexual harassment training.  At a minimum, the sexual harassment training must include:

  • an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act;
  • examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
  • a summary of relevant federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and
  • a summary of responsibilities of employers in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.

Additional sexual harassment training requirements apply to restaurants and bars.  While the IDHR model training program will satisfy the minimum requirements for Illinois employers, employers are strongly recommended to conduct their own training or bring in a trainer to conduct training based on their individualized business. These programs can be far more effective, as they offer:

  • A knowledgeable trainer who is experienced in dealing with issues of workplace harassment and discrimination. Live training may be conducted in-person or remotely via video conferencing platforms.
  • Interactive and participatory elements to allow employees to better understand the material and obtain answers to their questions.
  • Tailored training, specific to the workplace and the issues that may arise in the course of the operations. Customized programs provide examples and information specific to the workplace, which will maximize employee engagement and comprehension.

The goal of these programs is to reduce the amount of sexual harassment by preventing its occurrence in the first place. As the new year dawns, Illinois will see whether the implementation of its law will be effective. 

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