By LINDSEY SALVATELLI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — All businesses in the state would need to provide workplace sexual harassment training to employees under a robust bill awaiting approval when the Senate reconvenes in overtime session as soon as Sunday.
Senate Bill 75, carried by Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, requires all employees to provide workplace sexual harassment training at least once a year and advises workers on steps they can take after reporting incidents of harassment or discrimination.
SB 75 was approved unanimously by the House on Saturday. The Senate approved the bill in April, but because changes to the bill were made in the House, it goes back to the Senate for final approval before being sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The bill extends to the private sector many of the same increased workplace protections of a 2018 bill addressing sexual harassment policy in the Legislature.
Rep. Ann Williams, a Chicago Democrat who carried SB 75 in the House, said the legislation is the “next step in a series of bills” to strengthen workplace protections regarding sexual harassment statewide.
Under the new bill, failure to train employees could result in a $500 penalty to businesses with fewer than four workers, or a $1,000 penalty to those with four or more.
Additionally, within the first week of a new employee’s hiring, restaurant and bar owners would be required to provide them with information about the businesses’ sexual harassment policy and the appropriate channels they can go through to report sexual harassment incidents.
Training at restaurants and bars will be a “step up” from other businesses because of their “unique situation,” Williams explained.
“Tipped employees have a different relationship with customers and may be subject to more situations that might lead to the situations we’re trying to address here,” Williams said.
The bill also requires employers to report all settlements from sexual harassment claims from the previous year, and provides language that protects employees from being forced to sign nondisclosure agreements relating to sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination.
Additional measures were made to protect casino and hotel employees. For example, when working alone in a restroom, guest room or on a casino floor, employers must provide portable safety devices that workers can use to call for help if they fear for their safety or believe sexual assault or harassment is taking place.