Capitol Report | Winter 2019
#MeToo and You as a CPA
Are you compliant with new legal requirements for sexual harassment prevention training?
Marty Green, Esq.
ICPAS VP of Government Relations
You’ve undoubtedly heard about the #MeToo movement and its repercussions throughout
the business world. But you probably didn’t think the outing of high-profile compulsive sexual
harassers across the nation would ever hit home for you. It will now.
The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation during the spring legislative session that
impacts not just you as a CPA but every employee and employer in the state of Illinois. Gov.
J.B. Pritzker has signed into law two operative pieces of legislation—House Bill 4953 and
Senate Bill 75—requiring holders of professional licenses, like CPAs, and Illinois employers
and employees to complete sexual harassment prevention training.
Approved training courses, at a minimum, will detail forms of sexual harassment, what should
be done if someone experiences or witnesses unwelcome sexual contact, how to report sexual
harassment within a place of employment and to outside entities, and the types of protections
in place for whistleblowers. I’ve heard from many firms and companies that this is a burden to
comply with, but this should be viewed as an opportunity to further strengthen the integrity of
First, HB 4953 (Public Act 100-762) relates to professional license continuing education
requirements and sexual harassment prevention training. The bill amends Department of
Professional Regulation Law by adding section 15.5, which requires professions with continuing
education requirements to include at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training
for new applicants and licensees renewing or restoring his or her license on or after Jan. 1, 2020.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) adopted Administrative
Rules (68 Ill. Adm. Code 1130.400) in May 2019 to implement the requirements of HB 4953. What
this means for you as a licensed CPA is that you must now complete one hour of sexual
harassment prevention training as part of the 120 hours of continuing education required for
maintaining your CPA license. Be aware this one hour of specialized training cannot be counted
toward the four hours of ethics training. Conversely, registered CPAs do not have a continuing
education requirement and are not required to complete sexual harassment prevention training
for renewing their registered status.
Most importantly, the sexual harassment prevention training must be provided by an IDFPR-approved
continuing education provider, such as the Illinois CPA Society, or providers that are
approved by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The training
also must be presented in a classroom, webinar, or online setting and must fulfill all other
requirements of continuing education as outlined in sections 1420.70 and 1420.72 of the Illinois
Public Accounting Act Administrative Rules.
Next, SB 75, or the Workplace Transparency Act (Public Act 101-221),
enacts sweeping changes across Illinois’ employment law landscape.
This far-reaching legislation imposes inter alia
reporting, training, and
contracting requirements that will impact your respective firm as an
Illinois employer as well as your respective clients.
The Act “encourages employers to adopt and actively implement
policies to ensure their workplaces are safe for employees to report
concerns about sexual harassment without fear of retaliation, loss
of status, or loss of promotional opportunities.”
What this means is that all Illinois employers must provide mandatory
sexual harassment prevention training to all Illinois employees
annually beginning in 2020. The legislation requires the Illinois
Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to produce a model training
program and make it available to employers online at no cost.
Many CPA firms are closely looking at HB 4953 and SB 75 to identify
training opportunities that fulfill the requirements of both of their
respective public acts. Let me caution you that if you want to satisfy
the requirements of both with in-house training, your firm would need
to be a licensed Illinois CPE provider or a NASBA CPE provider.
In addition to employee training requirements, the Workplace
Transparency Act establishes employer disclosure and reporting
requirements. Beginning July 1, 2020—and every July thereafter—
Illinois employers must report adverse judgments and/or
administrative rulings to the IDHR, including equitable relief ordered
against the employer, the number of adverse judgments for sexual
harassment or discrimination, and the number of settlements
entered within the last five years.
The Act also allows the IDHR to share substantiated findings of civil
rights violations by professional licensees with the IDFPR, which
could lead to professional license suspensions, revocations, or
refusals to renew.
The Illinois CPA Society’s Government Relations team negotiated
with the respective legislative caucuses on this massive legislation,
particularly in the use of pre-employment and employment
agreements for arbitration. This is an area of extensive federal preemption. Section 1-25 limits the use of pre-employment and
employment arbitration agreements for resolution of workplace
discrimination and sexual harassment. Employment agreements
that include arbitration clauses to resolve unlawful employment
practices require arbitration clauses to be negotiated and
require the employer to provide consideration to the employee or
future employee in exchange for such an agreement. In these
cases, employers should have the employee sign a written
acknowledgement that they knowingly negotiated the arbitration
agreement and that they are agreeing to arbitrate unlawful
employment claims in exchange for consideration.
Finally, the Act prohibits employers from restricting employees from
testifying before an administrative agency or legislative or judicial
proceeding when subpoenaed or ordered by the court to appear.
While the Illinois CPA Society will continue to be an advocate for the
CPA profession, the Illinois General Assembly has and will continue
to change Illinois’ employment landscape. It’s best for you to become
familiar with these new professional licensure requirements and
employer mandates that are guaranteed to impact you as a CPA and
every employer and employee across our state.
Author’s Note: This column includes my personal observations of the evolution
of the legislative environment and are not necessarily the views of the
Illinois CPA Society.