On June 2, 2019, the Illinois General Assembly passed SB75, a legislative response to the #MeToo movement. Governor J. B. Pritzker is expected to sign SB75 soon, as it aligns with his campaign promise to tackle sexual harassment.
SB75 creates three laws and amends a number of others to increase protection for employees in Illinois who are victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence, and domestic and gender-based violence. Employers should be aware of the following highlights:
- Limits on Nondisclosure and Mandatory Arbitration Agreements: The law limits unilateral nondisclosure agreements and mandatory arbitration agreements relating to sexual harassment and employment discrimination claims (there will likely be preemption challenge under the Federal Arbitration Act);
2. Separate Union Representatives: Unions can no longer assign the same representative to both the victim and the accused in an investigation covered by SB75;
3. Disclosure of Adverse Rulings: The law also requires employers to annually disclose to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) the total number of final adverse administrative rulings or judgments in the preceding year and whether any equitable relief was ordered;
4. Disclosure of Settlements: During an IDHR investigation, an employer must disclose the total number of settlements entered into during the preceding five years that relate to any act of alleged sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination (the IDHR cannot rely on the existence of settlements to support a finding);
5. Unpaid Leave for Victims: Permits employees who are victims of gender-based violence to take unpaid leave;
6. Required Panic Buttons: Requires hotels and casinos to provide employees working in isolated spaces with panic buttons to prevent sexual harassment or assault;
7. Annual Training: Annual sexual harassment training for all employees and penalties for employers who fail to train employees.
Most provisions of the new law will take effect on January 1, 2020. The Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act goes into effect on July 1, 2020. This relates to the law requiring the panic buttons for hotel and casino employees working in isolated spaces.
Employers should familiarize themselves with SB75 and determine what policies and procedures must be enhanced to comply with these new laws and amendments to existing laws.