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Significant New Sexual Harassment and Employment Discrimination Legislation Advances out of the Senate

    April 23, 2019

    Significant New Sexual Harassment and Employment Discrimination Legislation Advances out of the Senate

    With the assistance of several Employment Law & Litigation Committee members, the Illinois Chamber was able to negotiate meaningful changes to SB 1829, sponsored by Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake). The Illinois Chamber has been engaged on the issue since last year when the Senate created a bipartisan task force on sexual harassment. We participated in the negotiations last year that resulted in extensive structural changes to the Illinois Human Rights Commission (SB 20/PA 100-1066). We were engaged in negotiations since the introduction of SB 1829 earlier this year. With the adoption of the Senate amendment, The Illinois Chamber is "neutral" on SB 1829. Approved by the Senate on a 56-0 vote, the legislation now goes to the House for consideration when the General Assembly returns to Springfield next month. The main features of the legislation are:

     

    • Limits the use of legal documents intended to prevent an employee from reporting sexual harassment, such as non-disclosure agreements, arbitration clauses, and non-disparagement clauses for cases involving harassment, discrimination and retaliation;

    • Makes harassment against contract employees illegal (currently, these employees do not have legal protection against sexual harassment);

    • Clarifies that it is illegal to discriminate against an employee if they are perceived to be part of a protected class (i.e. gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity), even if they are not;

    • Expands the Victims Economic Security & Safety Act (VESSA) to allow victims of sexual harassment to take unpaid leave from work to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning and other assistance;

    • Prevents a union representative from representing both a victim of sexual harassment and the alleged harasser in a disciplinary proceeding;

    • Requires employers, labor organizations and units of local government to disclose the number of sexual harassment and discrimination settlements or actions against them to the Department of Human Rights; and

    • Requires employers to annually train their employees on preventing sexual harassment.  The Department of Human Rights is required to make a sexual harassment training program available for employers to provide to their employees.