Illinois SB 75: What Does It Mean For The Workplace?

In June 2019, the General Assembly passed senate bill 75, which would drastically change the existing sexual harassment and discrimination law in the state of Illinois. The bill would become law in August of the same year and be known to the corporate world as the Workplace Transparency Act or WTA. The Illinois SB 75 law essentially altered the state requirements for anti-harassment training and reporting in an attempt to prevent future incidents from taking place. 

An Overview of Illinois SB 75

The bill proposed three new laws while also amending the Illinois Human Rights Act that was in effect at the time. The primary purpose of passing this bill was to ensure that employers would not be exploiting their employees by making them enter into vague workplace agreements that would be detrimental to their wellbeing. 

This would be possible by restricting any workplace agreements like contracts, clauses, and waivers that do not permit an employee to freely speak against unlawful conduct to local, state, or federal authorities. 

In this way, the introduction of WTA with SB 75 would ensure that any harmful condition would be brought to light without the complainant facing repercussions from the accused. 

The law applies to all companies that employ more than one employee, especially service-related businesses like restaurants and bars. Although the bill was signed in August, it would only be effective in January 2020. However, the terms of the law only take effect in July 2020 for hotels and casinos. 

Breaking Down the Implications of Illinois SB 75 

With SB 75 being passed, companies would have to expect a change in the following: 

  • Restrictions on nondisclosure agreements

In case employees are currently bound in a nondisclosure and non-disparagement contract and are facing abuse at the hands of their employers or co-workers, these documents will be considered void. However, before these documents are discarded, they will have to be reviewed by an external legal counsel to ensure that they are not impeding the freedom of the employee. 

  • Eradication of unilateral arbitration

Arbitration refers to the process of reaching a settlement without going to court. Although this practice is fairly common, it is only fair to the parties involved if they both agree to the settlement without going to trial. 

Therefore, the presence of unilateral arbitration will mean that one party will have the upper hand and is the sole decision-maker when it comes to whether or not the case goes to trial. For this reason, the Illinois SB 75 moved to eliminate this practice completely. 

  • Reporting processes

Some companies tend to conceal the amounts that they pay to employees in lawsuits. However, SB 75 will require companies to disclose settlements to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) once a year. In this way, the department can keep track of the number of harassment incidents that take place in a given period. 

The number of non-appealable, final judgments where sexual harassment and exploitation were found must be reported to the department. The nature of the discrimination also has to be mentioned whether the victim’s sex, race, sexual orientation, or other characteristics were the reason behind the discrimination. 

  • Training guidelines 

In addition to the above guidelines, Illinois SB 75 would also change the landscape of discrimination and harassment in the workplace by introducing a more comprehensive list of workplace etiquette training to prevent casual harassment instances and microaggressions. 

Given that sexual harassment training is a preventative measure, companies can ensure that their workspaces are safe for all kinds of employees. As per the sexual harassment prevention training program model provided by the IDHR, the new guidelines involve: 

  • Creating a comprehensive training program and policy in both English and Spanish for employees. 
  • The training policy must be disclosed to the employees within the first week of their employment. 
  • The training program must mention topics that are relevant to the industry in which the employees are working. Therefore, employees working in bars and restaurants will have to address issues that are specific to that industry. 
  • A comprehensive explanation of the WTA and how it defines sexual harassment. 
  • Demonstration of examples where unlawful sexual harassment has taken place. 
  • A rundown of federal and state laws about sexual harassment and remedies that will be available to employees that experience sexual harassment. 
  • It should also contain a list of responsibilities for employers in investigating and preventing sexual harassment. Along with this, there is a list of corrective measures that need to be mentioned as well. 

The Illinois SB 75 differs from other similar laws passed by the California state government alongside others. This is because companies that do not comply with all the requirements mentioned in the law will have to spend close to $5,000 for every offense they commit. This is a first as most other laws do not impose a fine on offenders when it comes to providing their employees with anti-harassment training programs. 

Additional Acts Introduced by Illinois SB 75 

In addition to the aforementioned Workplace Transparency Act, SB 75 also introduced two other acts. These acts were specifically implemented to prevent one form of harassment, in particular, sexual harassment. They are: 

  • Hotel and casino employee safety act

According to the law that was passed with this act, companies that are present in industries known for incidents of sexual harassment, there are additional protective measures that need to be provided to employees. One such measure is a notification device that is to be given to every employee that works alone. 

This device functions similar to that of a panic button and alerts the employer when it is pressed, indicating that that employee needs help. This device will have to be free of cost for the employee. Along with this, the hotel or casino must compile a list of anti-sexual harassment policies in written form that protect all employees from sexual assault and harassment by customers. 

  • Sexual harassment victim representation act

This act requires union bodies or employers to ensure that in the event where another sexually harasses one employee, the accused should be given a different union representative than the accused in all court or internal proceedings. In this way, the representation will be unbiased. 

Summarizing Illinois SB 75 

The first important aspect of this bill is that companies in the state of Illinois would have to implement all the requirements mentioned by January 1, 2020. However, the special act concerning the safety of employees working in casinos and hotels would have to be complied with by July 1, 2020. 

Complying with SB 75 will mean that employers will have to: 

  • Refrain from binding employees in non disclosure contracts that prevent them from speaking out against abuse in the workplace. 
  • Report all cases of harassment that have taken place in the workplace to the Illinois Department of Human Rights on the first of July every year. 
  • Eradicating all unilateral agreements to arbitrate claims. 
  • Implement a written anti-harassment policy that involves training programs as per the model provided by the IDHR. 

In this way, SB 75 has completely eliminated the excess of power that employers would have over their employees. Therefore, it has achieved a great deal in terms of providing employees with the rights they deserve.

Related Content

Importance Of Diversity Training: Ten Benefits In The Workplace

With globalization taking place in modern times, the significance of diversity training in every workplace worldwide rises multiple folds. In addition, many employees now are getting vocal and supporting diversity training as they feel such training helps foster equality in the workplace. 

Corporate Inclusion: 13 Ways To Incorporate In The Workplace

Corporate inclusion refers to a work setting that promotes mutual respect, clear communication, and effective relationships among workers. In an inclusive workplace, people of all cultural orientations can express their opinions without hesitation. They can freely participate in learning and teaching worker.

Physical Harassment At Work: Indicators Of Harassment At The Workplace

Various forms of physical harassment include using intimidating gestures, Sexual assault or abuse or sexual rape, kissing, hugging, touching or grabbing someone forcibly, etc. Purposely rubbing one’s body against someone, blocking another employee’s movements, or unwelcome touching another employee’s hair, clothes, etc., is also a form of workplace violence.

States With Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training: Five States That Provide Training

Sexual harassment refers to any form of harassment that includes direct and indirect sexual implications. It may occur in any location, their own homes, workplaces, schools, universities, etc. and has been a problem since the beginning of time. Indeed, one can get them justice by identifying the guilty person and charging them for the assault so that no one would dare to perform such a disgusting act. 

Forms Of Harassment At Work: Eight Common Types

Harassment at work is usually more prevalent than we ever realize. It is primarily the situation that victims never remain assured of what involves harassment at the workplace and what measures to exercise when they are getting harassed.

IMPACTFUL COMPLIANCE & PREVENTION TRAINING

Impactly’s online sexual harassment and diversity, equity & inclusion training packages are used by hundreds of organizations across the country. Impactly is powered by Get Inclusive, one of the largest providers of prevention and compliance training for colleges and universities.

Corporate Inclusion: 13 Ways To Incorporate In The Workplace

Corporate inclusion refers to a work setting that promotes mutual respect, clear communication, and effective relationships among workers. In an inclusive workplace, people of all cultural orientations can express their opinions without hesitation. They can freely participate in learning and teaching worker.

Read More »

Physical Harassment At Work: Indicators Of Harassment At The Workplace

Various forms of physical harassment include using intimidating gestures, Sexual assault or abuse or sexual rape, kissing, hugging, touching or grabbing someone forcibly, etc. Purposely rubbing one’s body against someone, blocking another employee’s movements, or unwelcome touching another employee’s hair, clothes, etc., is also a form of workplace violence.

Read More »