The Illinois Legislative body has passed several bills in recent sessions that will certainly be approved by the governor. These laws are forthcoming as a result of an overwhelming number of court cases involving harassment-related charges.
Law B 408: ( Elected Officials ) The information disclosed must include the name and title of the recipient of severance, the amount of the payment and a statement that the person committed the act(s) of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination. A related bill, would prevent taxpayer dollars from being spent to secure the silence of a victim of sexual harassment committed by an elected official.
Law B 405 requires all companies that do business with the state of Illinois to have sexual harassment policies in place. Businesses that claim Edge tax credits, would be required to send a sexual harassment report to the state each year.
The #MeToo movement has resulted in an avalanche of media attention on harassment and discrimination issues committed in the workplace. Human resource professionals are strongly encouraged to reach out to skilled Harassment speakers to conduct formal seminars on prevention methods.
New Training and Policy Requirements for State Government Agencies and Lobbyists
The Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act (“Ethics Act”) was amended to 1) explicitly prohibit sexual harassment; 2) require state government leaders and employees in the General Assembly, state executive branches, and state agencies to undergo annual sexual harassment training; and 3) require the above-listed state authorities and agencies to institute an anti-harassment policy that includes, at a minimum, the following:
- A prohibition on sexual harassment;
- Details on how an individual can report an allegation, including options for making a confidential report to a manager or HR. Dept.
- A prohibition on retaliation for reporting allegations, including the availability of whistleblower protections under the Ethics Act, the Whistleblower Act, and the Illinois Human Rights Act;
- The consequences for a violation of the prohibition within any of these issues.
The Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act was also amended to require lobbyists to undergo annual sexual harassment prevention training and to institute policies that include the above-listed components.
New Policy Requirements for Local Units of Government
The Ethics Act was also amended to require units of local government (which would include, for example, libraries and park districts) to adopt an ordinance or resolution by January 15, 2019, establishing a policy to prohibit sexual harassment which includes the above-listed components.
Most first-offense harassment charges in Illinois are Class B misdemeanors, meaning the maximum penalty is up to 6 months in the county jail. Second-offense harassment charges in Illinois are generally Class A misdemeanors, which can be punished by up to a year in the county jail. On a second conviction, the court in IL must also impose either a jail term of at least 14 days or 240 hours of community service.
However, there are also several ways in which a harassment charge in Illinois can be a felony charge. These include but are not limited to the following:
- If the defendant has 3 or more previous convictions for harassment in the last 10 years.
- If the defendant was out on bond, on parole, on probation, etc.
- If a death threat was made.
- If the defendant has a prior forcible felony conviction in the last 10 years.
- If the alleged victim was under 18 years old and the defendant was over 18 years old.
Establishment of a Hotline to Report Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
The Illinois Human Rights Act was amended to require the Illinois Department of Human Rights to establish and operate a sexual harassment hotline. The hotline is intended as a means for individuals to anonymously report sexual harassment in both public and private places of employment.
Taking legal action in the state of Illinois:
This option is addressed when mediation or company intervention fails. Legal action can be addressed by either the federal government, (EEOC) or the Illinois Dept. of Human Rights, (IDHR). The EEOC covers companies with at least 15 employees; the state organization covers all. Complaints with the EEOC must be filed within 300 days of the incident; with the IDHR, it’s 180 days.
When filling a federal case, the EEOC will determine if discrimination has occurred. If the answer is yes, the agency will try to reach a settlement with the employer. If this fails, either the EEOC will file a suit itself, or provide a “Notice of Right to Sue” for the complainant. However, if the EEOC determines there was no discrimination, that “Notice of Right to Sue” is still provided and an individual can proceed in court.
Cases filed with the IDHR rest entirely with the state. The Illinois Human Rights Commission reviews claims and determines if discrimination occurred based on the Illinois laws & regulations.
If your company needs sexual harassment or harassment training in Illinois, click here
to see Employee Harassment Training’s Illinois trainers.
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