Within the last several months, it seems the list of prominent people in positions of power who have been accused of committing sexual harassment, and even sexual assault against fellow employees has grown extraordinarily long. An apparent societal shift that nobly entails victims exposing perpetrators of such behavior has revealed just how rampant this misconduct has become, as it has reared its ugly head in numerous industries and workplace settings.
A few months ago, news of unbridled sexual harassment claims in Illinois politics shook residents and lawmakers alike. An open letter detailing the severity of the issue at the Capitol garnered the signatures of 160 men and women who declare that they've been subjected to harassment, and/or have seen it happen, and now wish for the perpetuation of this misconduct in the course of state political work to cease.
After receiving notice of the letter, the General Assembly expeditiously and unanimously passed Senate Bill 402 and House Bill 137 - two pieces of legislation that many believe have been long overdue. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed both measures into law immediately.
Overview of HB 137 and SB 402
HB 137 passed both chambers without any opposition. It's enactment strips away the statute of limitations for sexual harassment complaints that are currently pending at the Legislative Ethics Commission. Typically, complaints must be investigated within a year, however, the time limit for investigating 27 complaints might have expired. Testimony reveals that there had been no inspector general over these complaints for over two years, which explains why these complaints had been disregarded.
SB 402 also passed both chambers seamlessly, and its impact will be pivotal going forward. The most striking aspect of the new law is its extended span of actionable behavior. This means that the law doesn't require an employment relationship between a victim and offender for sexual harassment to be condemned under law. Aside from this modification, the measure has changed several other features of Illinois politics:
- It has amended the Ethics Act, by giving each Inspector General the authority to investigate and bring sexual harassment claims for a hearing,
- It requires every elected official, state employee, registered lobbyist, constitutional officer and any other units of the government to craft and adopt a local, individualized sexual harassment policy,
- It obligates every state worker to partake in sexual harassment training, and
- It creates an accessible hotline conducted by the Department of Human Rights to report sexual harassment complaints to.
Aside from these bills, resolutions that consisted of setting goals to prevent sexual harassment at the Capitol, one of these goals was the creation of a task force.
Illinois Sexual Harassment Attorneys
If you have been subjected to sexual harassment on your job, you don't have to remain silent. Working with an attorney that can help you salvage a peaceful work environment while holding perpetrators accountable for the damages they've caused in court. The attorneys at Benassi & Benassi have years of experience successfully representing people who have been in your shoes. Contact them today for a free consultation.