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Bush fights to protect victims, targets sexual harassment in the private sector

Sen. Bush discusses SB1829 and Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention

SPRINGFIELD – A measure from State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) that provides greater protections for private sector workers who experience sexual harassment and discrimination passed out of the Senate without opposition this afternoon.

“Right now, Illinois workers who are harassed or discriminated against don’t have the protections they need to seek justice and hold perpetrators accountable.” Bush said. “This bill strengthens workers’ rights and includes reasonable requirements for employers that will create safer workplaces.”

The measure was drafted based on recommendations that were made last year during the Senate sexual harassment task force hearings.

“The Illinois Chamber participated in an open and thoughtful process on SB 1829, and we provided language we believe will help make a better workplace environment for employers and employees in Illinois,” said Jay Shattuck, executive director of the Employment Law Council at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber will continue to work with the task force senators and other stakeholders to help make a safe, more dependable and productive work environment throughout Illinois.”

“Preventing sexual harassment and discrimination and ensuring our workplaces are safe is not only good for workers, it’s good for business,” Bush said. “I’m pleased that leaders in the business community came to the table and worked with me on this important legislation.”

“With the #MeToo movement, women and men stood up and said ‘enough is enough,’” said State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields). “People deserve to work in an environment free from discrimination and sexual harassment. It’s well past time that we strengthen protections for workers and ensure all Illinoisans can live and work in peace.”

Senate Bill 1829 is an omnibus bill, which:

  • 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
  • Allows 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
  • Requires the Department of Human Rights to make a sexual harassment training program available for employers to provide to their employees

Bush introduced the measures after hearing from victims, advocates and members of the business community during the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention’s hearings last year. She served as the co-chair of the task force.