State requires new sexual harassment policies for all local governments

  • All 7,000 units of government in Illinois must adopt sexual harassment policies with certain requirements by Jan. 15.

      All 7,000 units of government in Illinois must adopt sexual harassment policies with certain requirements by Jan. 15. Jake Griffin | Staff Photographer, March 2013

 
 

All 7,000 units of government in Illinois must adopt sexual harassment policies with certain requirements by Jan. 15 as part of a new state law adopted last month following high-profile scandals nationwide.

The law will affect counties across the state, as well as municipalities, school districts, fire protection districts and more.

"It was all part of the unfortunate explosion of sexual harassment issues," said John Patterson, spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. "This was a direct effort to address the issue."

While many suburbs already have policies in place, the new law requires four specific provisions prohibiting sexual harassment, detailing how an allegation can be reported, prohibiting retaliation for making a report and naming the consequences of both violating the policy as well as knowingly making a false report.

Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole said his agency has been working to publicize the new requirements among local governments as well as sharing a model ordinance and answering frequently asked questions.

Cole said he thought very few local governments' existing polices would include all four of the state's new requirements.

Nevertheless, Schaumburg is among those and is planning no amendments to its 2015 policy, Assistant Village Manager Paula Hewson said.

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Neighboring Hoffman Estates was among the communities that got revised policies approved before the holidays. Meanwhile, Bartlett Fire Protection District trustees last week discussed with their attorney having a draft policy ready for their approval in January.

Senate Bill 402's long journey to becoming Public Act 100-554 began with Cullerton's original filing back in January. But Patterson said the initial bill barely resembled the current law and was in the hands of the General Assembly when it was strongly influenced by the rash of sexual harassment complaints across the country as well as in Springfield itself this fall.

At the state level, the law sparked the hiring of an inspector general who was given the power to investigate old cases at the ethics commission, Patterson said. Both the House and Senate created task forces to study their next steps.

In the wake of the law's Nov. 16 adoption, Cullerton said, "This is a beginning. We addressed problems and issues that should have been tackled a long time ago. I look forward to the task force recommendations on the next steps we need to take and offer my support for them."

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