Omnibus Sexual Harassment Bill: What is it and How will it impact the workplace?
This month, Governor Pritzker will sign an Omnibus Sexual Harassment Bill (SB 0075) that will strengthen Illinois workplace anti-harassment laws, marking a long-overdue victory for Illinois workers. As we know, ending sexual harassment is key to women’s equality. Sexual harassment disproportionately effects women of color — especially those of us working in low-paid jobs — and workplace harassment keeps women from advancing economically in so many ways, either because they face retaliation, or because they choose to leave jobs rather than (or in addition to) reporting their abusers. Here are some key points on what this new legislation will do.
1. Define discrimination & harassment. The law will clarify that discrimination based on actual or perceived protected class is actionable, and that harassment based on any protected class in an employment context is actionable.
2. Require anti-harassment policies and trainings. Illinois will require the Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to develop a sexual harassment prevention training that will be available to employers and the public at no cost. All private employers will be required to use this training, or another version that meets or beats the IDHR model’s standards, to train all of their employees at least once a year. Restaurants and bars will be required to have specialized training and to put in place anti-harassment policies.
3. Limit forced arbitration. Illinois will prohibit an employer from requiring employees to sign forced arbitration agreements related to harassment and discrimination as a condition for employment. Such a provision is allowed only if it is mutually agreed upon, beneficial to both parties, and acknowledges the employee’s right to report allegations to the appropriate government agency or official.
4. Provide unpaid leave for survivors of gender-related violence. The law will enable victims of gender-related violence to take unpaid leave to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning, and other assistance by expanding the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA).
5. Establish the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act. Hotels and casinos will be required to give all staff working alone in guestrooms, restrooms, and casino floors a panic button or safety notification device.
6. Protect more workers. Illinois will expand legal protections against all forms of harassment for contractors, consultants, and others who are contracted to directly perform services for the employer.
7. Strengthen government ethics. The law will create a more robust process for investigating and addressing harassment complaints against government officials, government employees, and lobbyists
8. Ensure fair representation. Labor organizations will no longer be allowed use the same representative to represent both the victim and the accused.
Women Employed has been fighting workplace sexual harassment since our inception 45+ years ago, and this year’s passage of the Omnibus Sexual Harassment bill marks a major step forward as one of the most sweeping employment-related civil rights reforms Illinois has seen in years.