New anti-discrimination and harassment law takes effect

Published: Wednesday, July 01, 2020 11:50 AM

bush 032019GRAYSLAKE — Private sector workers who experience sexual harassment and discrimination will have greater protections under the law thanks to a major piece of legislation from State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) that took effect Wednesday.

“This law gives victims of workplace harassment and discrimination more protections and ensures they are able to seek justice,” Bush said. “We’re not only changing the law—we’re changing the culture. We’re standing with victims and saying enough is enough.”

Employers will now be required to provide sexual harassment prevention training once a year, and discrimination against an employee because they are perceived to be a part of the protected class would be illegal, even if the employee is not part of that class.

The law — found in Senate Bill 75 — also includes major reforms to the state’s ethics investigation process, including making the process more transparent and giving additional rights to victims of harassment and discrimination who file ethics complaints.

Bush introduced the law after traveling the state as the co-chair of the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness Prevention, hearing from both victims and advocates. Her conversations led her to fight for more protections against harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

“Preventing sexual harassment and discrimination and ensuring our workplaces are safe is not only good for workers—it’s good for business,” Bush said. “With these measures in place, workers will have more protections under the law, and employers will be more proactive about educating employees and preventing these situations.”

The measure was signed by the governor last year and took effect July 1.


Belt backs July 1 minimum wage increase to support essential workers during COVID-19 crisis

Published: Wednesday, July 01, 2020 11:20 AM

belt minwage 070120EAST ST. LOUIS - In support of the grocery store employees, gas station attendants and other minimum wage workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) applauds the July 1 increase to the state's minimum wage.

“Our low-wage essential workers deserve to see a pay increase for their labor during the COVID-19 crisis,” Belt said. “And the many Illinoisans who have been laid off during the pandemic can count on a livable wage when they return to work.” 

Senate Bill 1 increases the state's minimum wage increases to $10 per hour on July 1. The legislation requires the wage to increase by $1 on Jan. 1 each year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2025. 

To support the state’s small business community, a tax credit will be available for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to help offset the wage increase.

In response to business leaders who have used the pandemic and its associated economic downturn to try to repeal or delay the wage increase, Belt says it can’t wait.

"I promised my constituents a livable minimum wage, and I plan on keeping that promise," Belt said. "It’s been a decade since Illinois workers received a wage increase—we can’t stall any longer."

Castro co-sponsored casino support bill becomes law

Published: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 02:47 PM

casino 063020ELGIN – A measure co-sponsored by State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) meant to provide support to casinos became law Tuesday.

“Many businesses have been able to reopen under the Restore Illinois plan, but casinos have not,” Castro said. “A casino can be one of the largest sources of employment in its area, and the surrounding communities are often heavily reliant on the tax revenue it provides. If casinos are forced to close for good as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have long lasting and devastating effects on the area.”

Senate Bill 516 was signed by Gov. JB Pritzker Tuesday and makes several changes to previous gaming bills. It is meant to lessen the financial burden of casinos, which have been closed since the first Stay at Home Order was issued in March.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Increases the period of time casinos have to pay fees from two years to six years and removes the requirement to pay interest in the fees;
  • Moves the implementation date of a new, lower tax rate to July 1, 2020, rather than having the rate kick in only when a new casino opens; and
  • Extends the due date for sports licensing and other fees by one year to July 1, 2021.

“By providing these small changes, we’re giving the casinos the same opportunity to bounce back that other institutions have had, which gives them a bit of breathing room, while not completely removing their obligation to pay their fair share,” Castro said.

Castro’s district includes the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. The measure passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support during the May special session.

Murphy urges local businesses to apply for grant funding

Published: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 12:05 PM

murphy 060319DES PLAINES – To help local businesses recover from pandemic-related closures, State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) invites business owners to apply for assistance through the new Business Interruption Grant program, which will make $60 million available for 3,500 small businesses affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the first round of funding.

“During our shortened legislative session, we made it a priority to pass a budget that included help for the small businesses suffering most during the pandemic,” Murphy said. “The BIG program is one way we are lending a hand to the establishments that underpin our local economy and make our neighborhoods unique.”

The BIG program is part of more than $900 million in new relief programs recently announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, with a focus on restoring communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Grants will be made available for small businesses in amounts ranging between $10,000 and $20,000, depending on business type and other eligibility criteria. Eligible businesses include restaurants and bars, barbershops and salons, and gyms and fitness centers. Other businesses that have suffered property damage during recent civil unrest are also eligible for assistance.

Businesses must also have been in operation for at least three months prior to March 2020.

The first wave of BIG funding will prioritize businesses located in disproportionately impacted areas, or low-income areas that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 cases, including those in the 60018 and 60133 zip codes.

“Our region saw above-average numbers of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, and businesses suffered,” Murphy said. “I encourage any business that needs assistance—particularly those in high-priority zip codes, including 60018 and 60133—to apply immediately.”

BIG funds may be used to help businesses cover the costs of payroll, rent, utilities and other working capital during the time they have experienced interruptions due to the pandemic.

A full list of criteria, as well as the application, can be found on the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website. All applications must be submitted by Tuesday, July 7 at 5 p.m.

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