Wednesday, July 10, 2019

SB 0075 Offers Legislative response to #MeToo

On June 2, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker stood with a bipartisan group of legislators rejoicing at the end of an eventful legislative session. The big-ticket items of the session included recreational marijuana legalization, comprehensive protection to abortion access, a capital spending plan, cigarette tax, the list goes on. Under the radar, however, is an omnibus bill to expand workplace protection of employees’ subject to discrimination and sexual harassment.

Senate Bill 0075 amends several statutes and creates the Workplace Transparency Act (IWTA). The bill was championed by State-Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) as a legislative response to the #MeToo Movement. Below is a list of substantive changes made by the bill:

Illinois Workplace Transparency Act:
Voids and severs any “agreement, clause, covenant, or waiver that is a unilateral condition of employment or continued employment” that prevents an employee or applicant from disclosing unlawful employment practices about an employer.

Confidentiality agreements are allowed as a part of a settlement or termination agreement if they meet the following requirements:
  • Confidentiality is mutually beneficial between employer, employee, or former employees;
  • Employer notifies employee or former employee of their right to legal representation to review the settlement or termination agreement;
  • Valid bargained consideration in exchange for confidentiality;
  • The agreement does not waive any unlawful employment practices after the execution of the agreement.
  • The agreement is provided in writing, and the employee or former employee has 21 calendar days to respond to the offer.
  • Unless knowingly or voluntarily waived by the employee, the employee has 7 days to revoke the execution of the agreement, which is not enforceable until the revocation period expires.

Amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to specifically include the following:
Include a change to the definition of unlawful discrimination to include a person’s “actual or perceived” attribute like race, color, religion, age, sex, etc. IWTA also broadens the definition of working environment under sexual harassment to not limit the “physical location an employee is assigned to perform his or her duties.”

Employers are responsible for the actions of nonmanagerial and nonsupervisory employees “only if the employer becomes aware of the conduct and fails to take corrective measures.”

Employers are liable for the actions of employees engaging in sexual harassment of nonemployees in the workplace. A nonemployee is any “person who is not otherwise an employee of the employer and is directly providing services for the employer,” which can include contractors and consultants. 

NEW (775 ILCS 5/2-108): requires employers public and private employers to disclose the “total number of settlements entered into during the preceding year. . .that relate to any allege act of sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination” beginning on July 1, 2020. The employer may NOT disclose the name of the victim in the alleged sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination disclosure.

NEW (775 ILCS 5/7-109): mandates that all employers adopt a sexual harassment prevention training program for employees modeled off the program to be created by the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The interactive program must include, at minimum, the following:
  • Explanation of sexual harassment;
  • Examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
  • Summary of federal law outlining sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination, including remedy available to victims of sexual harassment; and
  • Summary of employer responsibility to prevent, investigate, and adjudicate sexual harassment.
Amends to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to exempt “data reported by an employer to the Department of Human Rights” from being accessible by an FOIA request.

Amends the Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act to include the IWTA.

Amends the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) to include sexual harassment, which allows an employee who’s a victim of domestic or sexual violence or has a family member who suffered from domestic or sexual violence can take up to twelve (12) weeks off to seek medical/psychological help, counseling, legal and other assistance. It also broadens the definition of "electronic communication" under VESSA to include websites, web-based applications, and social networking sites.

Creates the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act, which mandates that all hotel and casinos must equip workers assigned to guest rooms, restrooms, and casino floors with panic buttons in case of “crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault or other emergency occurring in the employee’s presence.” The bill also bolsters casino and hotel sexual harassment policies.

SB 0075 remains on the Governor’s desk as of today.