Workers in Illinois are protected against being sexually harassed in the workplace by both state law and federal law. These laws provide that employees are entitled to a safe work environment, free from sexual assault or harassment. If sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, victims may recover monetary damages for emotional damages, and other damages, such as losing their job, if they leave their job because of a hostile environment. On August 9, 2019, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed SB 75, enhancing the protection of employees and requiring that employers give interactive training about sexual harassment in the workplace.
This move towards a more interactive and engaging training session is designed to build a stronger dialogue around office culture and sexual assault. Furthermore, the new law calls for mandated reporting of any workplace incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination. This provision could potentially limit an employer’s ability to require non-disclosure terms in settlement agreements. The bill would also extend job-protected leave to victims of gender violence among other provisions.
Under the new law, the Illinois legislature has outlined the process that they recommend for victims of sexual harassment. The first step is to object, document, identify witnesses, notify management, call the police, and then file a report. This outline creates a very broad framework for victims, however, when it comes to things like sexual harassment and sexual assault, things are hardly ever “ideal” or “go to plan.”
Persons of every age, gender, and race can be victims of sexual assault or harassment. Specifically, this can occur in the workplace where positions of power can be used as leverage. The new Illinois law should be considered an added measure in creating more protections for employees in the workplace. Illinois now requires a posting in each workspace regarding the signs of sexual harassment and disclosure of a victim’s options if they are being sexually harassed.
There is still work to be done to assure that all of our workspaces are free from the threat of harassment based on someone’s sex or gender. However, SB75 is a step in the right direction that will hold businesses more accountable for the actions of their offending employees.
If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace, and you would like to discuss your situation with an attorney, please contact our office at 312-357-1431 for a free consultation.