Illinois State House District 22 issued the following announcement on Aug. 9.
A major package of stronger protections against sexual harassment and state ethics reforms championed by Speaker Michael J. Madigan and House Democrats is now law.
Compiling legislation introduced by representatives and senators throughout the spring session, House Democrats crafted a wide-reaching omnibus bill combatting harassment in both public and private sector workplaces. This legislation follows major internal reforms to House operations done in cooperation between Madigan and members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus to begin changing the culture in state government.
“Building better cultures is not a quick or easy job, but it is a necessary one,” Madigan said. “Harassment occurs in every workplace, and must be addressed in every workplace. It is not exclusively a public sector or private sector problem. It is not exclusively a Democratic or Republican problem. It is a challenge we all face. So it’s appropriate that this bill represents a truly collaborative effort of Democrats and Republicans, representatives and senators, public employers and private employers. I thank all those whose participation and ideas made this bill stronger. We must remain resolved to facing this challenge together and combatting harassment wherever it occurs.”
Senate Bill 75 provides new protections for private-sector workers, by:
Requiring all employers to provide sexual harassment training at least once per year to their employees. Restaurants and bars will be required to provide specialized training and adopt anti-harassment policies;
Prohibiting employers from requiring as a condition of employment that an employee keep quiet or waive their rights regarding harassment, discrimination and retaliation;
Ensuring the Illinois Human Rights Act covers discrimination on actual or perceived protected characteristics, as well as harassment, and expanding the Human Rights Act to prohibit harassment against contractors.
Requiring employers to report final judicial or administrative findings and settlements concerning sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination with the Department of Human Rights;
Requiring hotels and casinos to equip employees working alone with a panic button or other safety device.
“While we have made significant strides within state government to make sure those who have endured unacceptable behavior are heard and respected, this measure expands our focus to acknowledge the challenges faced by women and at-risk individuals throughout our workforce,” said state Rep. Ann Williams, the bill’s chief sponsor. “In particular, this bill recognizes the vulnerable position of those working in bars, restaurants and hotels, and makes Illinois a leader in ensuring their voices are heard too.”
Additionally, the bill takes a number of steps to further overhaul state ethics laws, including:
Expanding rights for persons who have faced harassment or discrimination, including ensuring they can receive notice of their rights and the inspector general’s decision to open or close an investigation, testify before an ethics commission, make an impact statement part of the inspector general’s report, and review any inspector general summary report, suggest redactions, and file a response;
Giving inspectors general more time to investigate and file complaints with the ethics commission; and
Requiring local governments to provide for reporting and independent review of sexual harassment involving local elected officials.
“By compiling the ideas of Democrats and Republicans from both the House and Senate, we have produced a comprehensive, bipartisan and wide-reaching bill,” said state Rep. Kathleen Willis, who serves on the Legislative Ethics Commission and helped facilitate negotiations on the bill. “The work of combatting harassment and reforming our government is ongoing, and we must continue to work together to build a better culture for all.”
This legislation follows significant reforms within state government and House operations. In 2017, the House approved Madigan’s legislation making sexual harassment a violation of the Ethics Act and mandating training for all legislators, constitutional officers, state employees and lobbyists. Additionally, legislators formed a House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force, which met more than a dozen times and issued a public report outlining the testimony and recommendations of survivors, advocates and experts.
Since October 2017, Madigan has personally met with women from every department in the Office of the Speaker to discuss their views of the work environment and get their feedback on necessary changes. At the Speaker’s direction, every director has met with each employee to discuss the working environment and seek input on recommendations for changes.
Based on these recommendations and working in partnership with the members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus, Madigan has implemented major internal reforms within the Office of the Speaker, including:
Adopting a zero-tolerance policy for harassment;
Retaining outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation of practices and allegations of any discrimination or harassment;
Hiring a full-time equal opportunity employment officer who is available to all employees; and
Updating personnel rules and instituting new requirements for reporting and handling allegations of discrimination or harassment.
“No one bill or reform on its own will end the harassment and discrimination faced by so many throughout our state – but through greater awareness and resolve to do better, we can make all workplaces fairer and more welcoming,” Deputy House Majority Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth said. “Speaker Madigan and House Democrats are committed to ensuring that everyone—whether their workplace is the State Capitol or a local restaurant—knows their voice will be heard, their rights will be respected and their concerns will be acted upon.”
“Speaker Madigan and the members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus share a commitment to working toward a culture in state government and throughout Illinois that refuses to tolerate harassment and refuses to look away from unacceptable behavior,” said Assistant Majority Leader Kelly Burke. “This legislation builds on the steps we have taken within the Capitol and recognizes that women working throughout Illinois must be heard. This partnership between Speaker Madigan, the House Democratic Women’s Caucus, and senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle is critical to our ongoing effort to build a better culture for all.”
Original source can be found here.