Illinois legislature moves forward on new sexual harassment law

On behalf of Fox & Fox, S.C.

Last month, the Illinois state Senate passed the Workplace Transparency Act (Senate Bill 1829), a measure that would overhaul requirements for employers within the state regarding sexual harassment claims. The bill is still under consideration by the Illinois House of Representatives.

If passed, the Workplace Transparency Act would increase protections for employees – including safeguarding their right to report sexual harassment.

The most significant features of the bill include:

Preventing the use of non-disclosure agreements to silence victims of harassment

For many years and in various industries, employers have attempted to silence claims of sexual harassment in the workplace through provisions in their employment contracts. This was primarily done through:

  • Non-disclosure clauses
  • Confidentiality agreements
  • Non-disparagement clauses

The Workplace Transparency Act would prohibit employers in Illinois from using non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses covering sexual harassment. It also places restrictions on how employers can use mandatory arbitration clauses, which historically kept sexual harassment claims out of the court system.

Settlements or judgements on sexual harassment claims must be made public

The Act includes mandatory reporting requirements for employers. If an employer settles a sexual harassment claim by an employee or a judge rules against them, they must report that incident to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. As the name of the law suggests, this would increase transparency for current and potential employees. If a company has consistent problems of sexual harassment, the public will know about it.

We’ll be keeping watch of this bill as it moves through the state legislature, to see what changes are made. Some advocates have raised concerns about implementation of the law by small businesses, which may have an impact on the final language of the law. In any case, this bill represents a significant step forward in the fight against workplace sexual harassment in Illinois.

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