State law seeks to improve harassment protection in the workplace


John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS

The Illinois State Capitol on March 9, 2017, in Springfield, Illinois. In January, a new law went into effect that increased required workplace harassment education across the state.

Maia Spoto, Assistant City Editor

A state law that took effect at the beginning of the month will regulate harassment prevention in the workplace and increase protections for sexual assault survivors.

Sponsored by State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and State Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) in response to the #MeToo movement, the anti-sexual assault omnibus law SB75 requires public and private businesses to conduct annual sexual assault training for all employees. 

Additionally, the law prohibits businesses from using non-disclosure agreements to silence sexual assault survivors who come forward with allegations. Businesses can no longer force employees to waive their rights surrounding harassment and assault as a condition of employment. 

“Victims of workplace harassment and discrimination have for too long been silenced and unable to confront the often horrific circumstances they have experienced,” Bush said. “We are working to change our culture, preventing abuse and discrimination from happening in the first place while empowering victims to come forward when it does.”

Per the law’s requirements, the Illinois Department of Human Rights will provide free curriculum for the assault prevention course, which is required to be interactive. IDHR will release online videos to aid the program later in the year. Businesses will face fines up to $5,000 for noncompliance. 

Restaurants and bars are required to provide a separate harassment prevention course, according to the law. They will also need to install panic buttons for employees working in isolated spaces.

Furthermore, the law improves the process for taking complaints to IDHR, providing resources for individuals who seek help and instituting protections at each step of the complaint process. 

Williams said the law will “expand the scope” of harassment prevention to include broader categories of individuals. In addition to anti-sexual assault measures, the law also strengthens protections against discrimination on the basis of gender, race, age and sex, and extends protections to contract workers.

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Twitter: @maia_spoto