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Measures pass targeting sexual harassment

The Illinois General Assembly moved quickly this week to pass legislation in response to recent allegations of sexual harassment in and around the Statehouse.

Senate Bill 402 moved through the House and Senate unanimously, specifically prohibiting sexual harassment of legislators and lobbyists. The measure also requires state agencies and lobbyists to adopt a sexual harassment policy, and requires all state officials, employees, and lobbyists to complete in person sexual harassment training on an annual basis. The bill also imposes penalties for violations of the sexual harassment prohibition and requires the Department of Human Rights to implement a hotline to report sexual harassment.

The Senate also unanimously passed House Bill 137 in response to the scandal surrounding the, until recently, empty Legislative Inspector General position. It was only within the last several weeks that lawmakers and the public were made aware that there have been 27 complaints filed with the Legislative Inspector General’s office over the last three years. However, lacking a Legislative Inspector General, those complaints went without review. House Bill 137 was introduced in response to a statute of limitations in current law that only gives the Legislative Inspector General one year to initiate an investigation after a complaint is filed. House Bill 137 lifts that one-year limit to allow the new Inspector General to go back and review these complaints.

Additionally, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 1076, creating the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention. The Task Force is charged with conducting a comprehensive review of legal and social consequences of sexual discrimination and harassment in the public and private sectors. The Task Force will later make recommendations on ways to combat sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace, educational institutions and within state and local government.

Republican lawmakers noted that while these measures are good first steps, there is still a lot of work to be done to not only address sexual harassment in the Capitol and beyond, but to advance real efforts to increase transparency and the effectiveness of the state’s ethics provisions and the legislative ethics investigative process.

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