Springfield lawmakers have passed the Sexual Harassment Victim Representation Act
Starting in January, all businesses in Illinois — including restaurants and bars — will have to provide workplace sexual harassment prevention trainings for employees. Earlier this month, lawmakers in Springfield approved Senate Bill 75 (the Sexual Harassment Victim Representation Act) which mandates businesses to offer the trainings annually. Failure could result in fines between $500 and $5,000, depending on how many are employed and if it’s a business’s first offense.
Some of Chicago’s larger restaurant companies, like Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and One Off Hospitality Group, already have trainings in place. But now the state is moving toward a standard. For example, within the first calendar week of employment, a restaurant will have to inform workers of its sexual harassment policy in writing. The policy should be made available in English and Spanish.
The policy must include a process on how workers could report any infractions. It also outlaws non-disclosure agreements that aim to quiet workers from reporting claims. If a restaurant or bar owner fails to comply, they will have 30 days to provide a fix or face fines.
“The restaurant industry, like all others, is ready to confront the challenges of sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Illinois Restaurant Association President & CEO Sam Toia.
The law requires the state department of human rights to create free trainings for workers. For restaurant and bar employees, these will be in the same spirit of BASSET or ServSafe certifications. Toia said his state organization is working with the National Restaurants Association to create the trainings.
The law was one of the topics covered last week at the first-ever Restaurant Culture Association panel. The RCA is a new organization that aims to organize restaurant and bar workers, educating them on issues including harassment in the workplace.