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Chicago Bystander Training: What Employers Need to Know?

Pranamika Rajesh
2 May 2024
15 min read
Chicago Bystander Training: What Employers Need to Know?

Have you ever been in a scenario when someone didn't speak out yet appeared uncomfortable or harassed? Today, it's necessary to foster a work climate that is inclusive and respectful. It goes beyond merely bearing witness; it gives people the ability to safely and successfully step in to prevent harm from occurring or to offer assistance. 

Bystander training plays a vital role in achieving this goal. It equips employees with the tools and confidence to intervene when they see inappropriate behavior. That is why Chicago has a legal mandate in place, known as Chicago Bystander Intervention Training, requiring all employers to provide annual Bystander Intervention Training to their employees. 

In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the importance of Chicago Bystander Training and examine the specific requirements that employers in Chicago need to meet. 

What is Bystander Training?

To understand the term Bystander intervention, we break it down into the following:

Observing More Than Just an Event: It involves recognizing circumstances in which an individual may be subjected to microaggression, discrimination, harassment, or bullying. You have the potential to make a positive impact, even if you're not directly involved.

Take this quiz to learn more about Microaggression in the workplace.

Being proactive and making a difference safely: Bystander intervention is more than just watching from the sidelines. It helps people develop the necessary skills and confidence to intervene safely and positively.

Objectives of Chicago Bystander Training

Chicago Bystander Training aims to achieve several key objectives:

  1. Sharpen Your Awareness: Through Chicago Bystander Intervention Training programs, you will learn how to spot signs of harassment, discrimination, and other inappropriate behavior in the workplace. 

These encompass various forms of communication, both spoken and unspoken, as well as subtle acts of discrimination and any circumstances that may cause discomfort.

  1. Develop Intervention Skills: Training programs provide you with the necessary tools and boost your confidence to effectively intervene in various situations.
  2. Cultivate a Respectful Workplace: Bystander training can really help in fostering a shared responsibility for creating a safe and inclusive work environment. This clearly communicates that harassment and discrimination are not acceptable and encourages everyone to actively prevent it.

Chicago Bystander Training goes beyond a mere checkbox exercise. It serves as a valuable tool for fostering a workplace culture that promotes respect and inclusion. According to a Harvard Business Review article, it is one of the most effective tools against sexual harassment at the workplace.

Key components and techniques used in Chicago Bystander Training

In Chicago workplaces, an integral component of Bystander Intervention Training programs is the "Four D's" approach. This equips employees with effective strategies to address instances of harassment or discrimination.

These are the different intervention strategies:

Direct: The first "D," Direct, encourages individuals to confront perpetrators assertively when circumstances allow and they feel safe to do so.

Distract: The Distract strategy encourages the bystander to de-escalate situations by diverting attention away from the target. This might involve posing a question or interjecting with an unrelated comment.

Delegate: When direct intervention is not feasible or safe, the Delegation strategy comes into play. This entails seeking assistance from appropriate authorities such as supervisors, HR personnel, or security.

Delay: In situations where immediate action is challenging, the Delay tactic suggests checking in with the victim later to offer support and potentially report the incident together. 

Through understanding and practicing these techniques, individuals become proficient at navigating challenging situations and fostering inclusivity in their professional environments.

To learn more on workplace safety, take this educational quiz.

Legal Considerations for Employers

Chicago Bystander Training requirement mandates annual sexual harassment prevention training for all employees, with an additional hour dedicated to bystander intervention. These are the following legal considerations for employers-

Failure to Comply: If employers fail to comply with these training requirements, they may face fines for each day they are not in compliance.

Recordkeeping: It's employers' responsibility to keep track of employees' completion of Bystander Intervention Training.

The City of Chicago provides free model sexual harassment prevention and Bystander Intervention Training materials.

Benefits of Chicago Bystander Training for Employers

Creating a safer and more inclusive workplace environment 

Legal compliance is important, but the real benefit of Bystander Intervention Training lies in its ability to create a safer and more inclusive workplace. Here's how: 

Empowered Bystanders: Training equips employees to recognize and respond to inappropriate behavior. This forms a network of people who are ready to intervene and stop any instances of harassment or discrimination. 

Mitigating the Bystander Effect: The bystander effect is the effect that the presence of others has on bystander intervention. In their seminal article, Darley and Bibb Latané found that any person who was the sole bystander helped, but only 62% of the participants intervened when they were part of a larger group of five bystanders.

People are less likely to help when they believe others are also watching but not acting. Training in bystander intervention helps address the tendency of people to stay passive when they witness something.

Open Communication: Training is critical to promoting open communication regarding respectful behavior expectations. This creates a work environment where employees feel at ease when it comes to reporting incidents and seeking support. 

Reduces misconduct: Bystander intervention sends a clear message that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated. Bystander intervention serves as a means to confront misconduct and assert its intolerance. 

Employee Well-being: A safe and inclusive environment fosters employee well-being and reduces stress associated with witnessing or experiencing harassment. This leads to higher morale, productivity, and employee retention. 

Bystander Intervention Training is not a one-time solution. However, empowering bystanders and shifting workplace culture are significant outcomes.

Reducing incidents of harassment, discrimination, and bullying 

Do you feel helpless when you witness the unfair treatment of a coworker? You should not. Bystander action gives you the power to stop bullying, abuse, and discrimination. A small thing can make a big difference. 

Why it works: 

  1. Disrupts the power dynamic: When onlookers step in to stop abuse, they question the imbalance of power that makes it possible. The perpetrator experiences unexpected pushback, whereas the victim feels less alone and is more likely to speak up. 
  2. Changes the norm: Bystander intervention sends a powerful message. It shows that the community will not tolerate that kind of behavior. Over time, these interventions become the new accepted norm, shifting the culture towards respect and inclusivity. 
  3. Reduces future incidents: Bystanders who act appropriately strongly discourage the culprits from repeating their actions. Not only does it stop the offender from doing it again, but it also stops others who might have been thinking about doing the same thing.
  4. The Ripple Effect: Bystander intervention encourages formal reporting, leading to investigations and consequences. It empowers others to speak up, creating a wave of positive change. It gives people the courage to speak out, which starts a wave of positive change.

Remember, you don't have to be a hero. Even a simple "Can I help?" can disrupt the situation. We can help solve the problem if we do something.

Enhancing employee morale and productivity

Bystander intervention doesn't just make the workplace more respectful; it also makes it a thriving space. When workers see abuse or bullying and do something about it, the impact goes far beyond the immediate situation. 

Not only is bystander intervention the morally right thing to do, but it also helps the business. This HBR article discusses in detail the correlation between a positive workplace environment and productivity. This is how:

Safer Space: People feel safe and like they belong when bystanders interject. Employees know that they have allies who will support them. This makes people happier and more satisfied with their jobs by reducing stress and anxiety.

Stronger Teams: Teams that respect and trust each other work better together, which leads to better results. This makes it easier to talk about and solve problems, which in turn makes more work get done.

Increased Retention: A hostile work environment is a major cause of employee turnover. Happier employees like to work in the workplace and hence stay for longer duration. This means that companies have to spend less on training and hiring people.

Real-life Example

Case: Bystander Training in the US Army

Even large organizations like the US Army face challenges with sexual harassment and bystander intervention. Traditional training often doesn't translate into action. However, a program called Trust in My Squad (TRiMS) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is showing promise. 

TRiMS emphasizes active participation, role-playing, and building confidence in intervening. Soldiers reported feeling more empowered to step in and even utilize formal reporting channels. This exemplifies the positive impact Bystander Intervention Training can have on fostering a culture of respect and safety.


In Chicago, the requirement for Bystander Intervention Training is more than just a legal mandate. People attain the skills they need to recognize and deal with harassment, discrimination, and bullying through this training. Employees are no longer passive observers. Instead, they stand together against this kind of behavior, which breaks down the bystander effect.

While complying with the Chicago Bystander Training requirement is essential, the real benefit lies in fostering a respectful and inclusive workplace. Chicago Bystander Intervention Training creates an environment of mutual respect in the workplace, which has a positive impact on various aspects. 

When workers feel safe at work, they are less likely to be stressed and nervous, which makes them more engaged and happy. Bystander involvement can also help teams work better together. Employees who trust and respect each other are more likely to communicate and work together well. This makes it easier to solve problems, boosts output, and eventually makes the team stronger and more successful.

It's not just a quick fix to get Bystander Intervention Training; it's an investment in the future of your business. Be the change you want to see in your workplace.


1. Is bystander intervention training necessary for employee professional development?

A. Yes, bystander intervention training can be a valuable addition to employee professional development for several reasons:

  1. Creates a safer workplace: By equipping employees with the skills to recognize and respond to inappropriate behavior, bystander training helps prevent harassment, bullying, and discrimination.
  2. Empowers employees: Training fosters a culture of responsibility and empowers employees to be active bystanders, promoting a sense of community and support.
  3. Reduces legal risk: By taking proactive steps to prevent misconduct, organizations can minimize legal exposure from harassment lawsuits.

2. Is Chicago Bystander Intervention Training only applicable to IT professionals?

A. No, Chicago's bystander intervention training mandate applies to all employees, not just IT professionals. Many states and cities have similar regulations, so it's important to check your local laws for specific requirements. Regardless of location, bystander intervention skills are valuable in any work environment.

3. How do organizations and individuals benefit from bystander intervention training?

A. For organizations, it fosters a more respectful and inclusive work environment. This translates to happier employees with higher morale and productivity. Additionally, proactive efforts to prevent harassment through bystander training can significantly reduce legal risks for the company. Finally, offering such training demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being, strengthening the organization's employer brand.

Individuals also reap numerous benefits from Bystander Intervention Training. They develop valuable skills to recognize and confidently respond to inappropriate behavior. This training empowers them to become active participants in creating a positive work environment. Furthermore, gaining the skills to navigate difficult situations effectively boosts their personal confidence.

Pranamika Rajesh

A trilingual literature graduate from University of Delhi doing an MBA at IIM Bodh Gaya, Pranamika is a dynamic professional with a passion for storytelling and content creation. Backed by a strong academic foundation and a diverse range of experiences, her journey in the realm of media and entertainment has equipped her with the skills to excel in scriptwriting, content creation, and digital marketing.