Biden Administration Bans Arbitration of Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims

On March 4, 2022, President Biden signed ithe “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act,” a new law banning mandatory arbitration for workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment claims. Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution outside of the court system. Many employment contracts broadly require employees to resolve claims against employers in arbitration.

This legislation makes language in existing and future employment contracts related to compulsory arbitration of sexual harassment and sexual assault claims unenforceable, at the option of the person bringing the claim. The law does not impact arbitration of other types of employment disputes, and applies to claims and disputes going forward, not past or pending claims. A person bringing a workplace sexual harassment or assault claim may still choose to resolve the claim through arbitration, or they may elect an alternative forum such as mediation, administrative agency proceedings, and/or state or federal court.

In light of this new law, employers should consider the following steps:

  • Review Employment agreements
    Employers should review employment agreements for language about mandatory arbitration. We can assist in this review.
  • Evaluate voluntary mediation services
    Nothing in the new legislature prohibits an employee from resolving disputes outside of court voluntarily. If disputes arise in the workplace, mediation is often a good option for all parties. Mediation is voluntary, confidential, and self-determined, meaning the parties come up with solutions to resolve the dispute. If you would like to learn more about Lake Effect’s mediation services, please contact us.
  • Reiterate your commitment to creating a harassment-free environment 
    Kindness is part of our mission and core values at Lake Effect. Our passion is helping employers cultivate kind environments, where workplace harassment has no place. Contact us to assist with leadership training, employee training, workshops, coaching, and other options that may fit your needs.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about compliant employment agreements and workplace dispute resolution. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please watch our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Illinois Provides Model for Newly Required Anti-Harassment Training

On April 30, the Illinois Department of Human Rights released a model training presentation that employers can use to comply with Illinois’ new sexual harassment prevention training requirement. An employer may use this model training, or it may develop a training specifically tailored to its organization, provided that the training meets the state’s minimum legal requirements.

In 2019, Illinois adopted a new law requiring employers to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all Illinois employees. This requirement also applies to employers based in other states that have one or more employees working remotely in Illinois or working at a customer’s worksite in Illinois. All Illinois employees must be trained by December 31, 2020. Restaurants and bars must also provide supplemental sexual harassment prevention training targeted specifically for those industries.

Two major points about the new training requirement from the state’s FAQs:

  • Although employers are not required to train independent contractors, Illinois strongly advises that independent contractors receive training if they work on-site at an employer’s workplace or interact with employees.
  • Employers should include in their anti-harassment training any employee who is based outside of Illinois but regularly works with employees in the state. For example, a manager based in Wisconsin who supervises employees working in Illinois should be included in the training.

While virtual training may be the only option in our current environment, employers should keep in mind that the EEOC has found that anti-harassment training is most effective when it is tailored to the specific workplace and workforce, as well as provided in-person, with interactive discussion, and by an experienced trainer.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to anti-harassment or other employee training. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Employers: Include NYC Independent Contractors in Your Anti-Harassment Training

Under the recently expanded New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), employers must include independent contractors in their sexual harassment training. This is a major shift in how independent contractors are generally treated. Employers should include an appropriate disclaimer before providing anti-harassment training to an independent contractor to clarify that the training does not change their independent contractor status.

This training requirement applies to all New York employers with 15 or more total workers. “Workers” includes employees who work outside of New York City and independent contractors. This means that if a Wisconsin based employer has 14 employees in Wisconsin and 1 employee or independent contractor in New York City, that employer must provide the required sexual harassment training to the worker in New York City, and comply with the other applicable New York State and New York City laws. Note that as of February 8, 2020, the New York State Human Right Law will apply to all employers with at least 1 employee in New York.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to mandatory anti-harassment training or independent contractors in Wisconsin or other states. Contact us at info@LE-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Upcoming Changes to Illinois Employment Laws

Over the summer, Illinois enacted several amendments to the state’s employment laws that will take effect January 1, 2020.

Sexual Harassment Training

All employers with Illinois employees must provide sexual harassment prevention training to their employees at least annually. The Illinois Department of Human Rights has advised that it will create a model training program for employers, but at the time of this article, it is not yet available. Alternatively, employers can use their own sexual harassment training program as long as it meets the state’s legal requirements. We can also create a training program for you that complies with Illinois’ legal requirements and is tailored to fit your industry, workplace culture, and mission.

Legalization of Recreational Marijuana

Organizations with employees in Illinois will confront a new legal landscape under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which declares marijuana a “lawful product” under Illinois state law. Under the new law, the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes will be legal for adults age 21 and older. There are now 11 states that allow recreational use of marijuana and 33 states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes.

The expansion of marijuana legalization in Illinois dramatically affects employer drug-free workplace and testing policies. Under the new law, employers can still prohibit the use, storage, buying, and selling of marijuana at work; they can likewise prohibit employees from being impaired or under the influence of marijuana at work. If an employer has a good faith belief that an employee is impaired at work or while on call, the employee can be disciplined only if that belief is based on specific, objective symptoms. An employee must also be given an opportunity to contest the basis of the determination of impairment. Employers cannot take an adverse action against an employee for merely testing positive for marijuana while at work. Employers should be wary of pre-employment drug testing, employment testing without reasonable suspicion and zero tolerance policies. It is not yet clear if Illinois employers can terminate employees who refuse to submit to a drug test that is based on a good faith belief of impairment.

Please contact your partners at Lake Effect Human Resources & Law if you would like to discuss a customized sexual harassment training program for your organization, or if you would like us to review your workplace and drug testing policies to ensure they comply with Illinois’ new laws.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

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