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Illinois Democrats push bill to combat sexual harassment
House Democrats Advance Measures to Combat Harassment, Commit to Continuing Effort to Change Culture
As part of an ongoing effort to change the culture at the State Capitol and beyond, Speaker Michael J. Madigan and House Democrats are advancing a series of measures to further crack down on workplace discrimination and harassment, fully investigate all allegations, impose tougher new penalties for violations, and continue to pursue workplace reform in government and in the private sector.
“The steps we have taken are a critical recognition that no person should be subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace, particularly here in the people’s House. These are by no means a final step. Ultimately, eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment will require entire cultures to change,” Madigan said.
“By advancing stronger protections for all who work in our Capitol, appointing a special legislative inspector general and empowering her to investigate all pending allegations, establishing a task force that will study further changes needed to combat harassment in both the public and private sectors, and recognizing that we must all do more to stop inappropriate behavior from being accepted as commonplace, we are making a continuing commitment to ensure no person is a target of discrimination or harassment.”
Mandatory Discrimination and Harassment Training
Madigan’s Senate Bill 402, approved by a bipartisan majority Tuesday, strictly prohibits sexual harassment by constitutional officers, lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists. Madigan’s bill empowers state inspectors general to investigate allegations, and gives each ethics commission authority to impose fines of up to $5,000 for each incident of sexual harassment. The legislation requires annual sexual harassment training that includes specific examples of sexual harassment, how a person can report sexual harassment, and the penalties for violating the prohibition on sexual harassment. House Democrats will participate in sexual harassment training, conducted by the Department of Human Rights, on Wednesday. Under Madigan’s bill, lobbyists and their clients will be required to adopt their own sexual harassment policies, like legislators do currently. All local governments must also adopt sexual harassment policies. Working in cooperation with Republicans, House Democrats included an additional provision expanding a state hotline for reporting allegations of harassment.
Investigating All Allegations
House Bill 137, introduced by state Rep. Art Turner, ensures that the newly appointed Special Legislative Inspector General, Julie Porter, is empowered to investigate all pending complaints filed with the Office of the Legislative Inspector General or the Legislative Ethics Commission. Previously investigations were requirement to commence within one year of the date of the alleged violation.
A Continuing Commitment to Change
While implementing these new protections, legislators are also advancing measures to continue to combat the culture of sexual and racial harassment and discrimination, both in government and in the private sector. State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz’s House Joint Resolution 83 calls on all lawmakers, legislative staff and lobbyists to make efforts to end sexual discrimination and harassment. State Rep. Andre Thapedi’s House Joint Resolution 86 calls on every state official to do more to remove the barriers of racial discrimination that continue to block the advancement of people of color.
In order to continue the conversation and advance the Speaker’s commitment toward working to prevent sexual harassment, the House approved House Resolution 687, which creates a Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment. Led by Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, the Task Force will conduct a comprehensive review of existing laws and make recommendations to the General Assembly on changes that will improve reporting of allegations, protect those who report harassment, and prevent discrimination and harassment.
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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