SPRINGFIELD — Facing extensive criticism for his political and government offices' handling of sexual harassment allegations, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is trumpeting passage of sweeping anti-harassment legislation that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Friday.
Spurred by the #MeToo movement, allegations of sexual harassment have rocked Madigan's inner circle since early last year, when he dismissed a top political operative following a campaign worker's allegations. The Chicago Tribune reported last month that federal investigators are looking into $10,000 in payments from current and former Commonwealth Edison lobbyists — including longtime Madigan ally Michael McClain — to that operative, Kevin Quinn, after he was ousted from the speaker's organization.
Against that backdrop, the speaker's office released a statement Friday describing the legislation Pritzker signed as "a major package of stronger protections against sexual harassment and state ethics reforms championed by Speaker Michael J. Madigan and House Democrats." In the statement, Madigan, who also leads the state Democratic Party, thanked "all those whose participation and ideas made this bill stronger."
"Building better cultures is not a quick or easy job, but it is a necessary one," Madigan said in the statement. "Harassment occurs in every workplace, and must be addressed in every workplace. It is not exclusively a public sector or private sector problem. It is not exclusively a Democratic or Republican problem. It is a challenge we all face. So it's appropriate that this bill represents a truly collaborative effort of Democrats and Republicans, representatives and senators, public employers and private employers."
The legislation, approved this spring without opposition in either chamber of the General Assembly, prohibits employers from requiring workers to sign nondisclosure and arbitration agreements related to harassment or discrimination. Among other provisions, it also extends protections against sexual harassment and discrimination to contract workers, requires all employers provide annual anti-sexual harassment training, and mandates that hotels and casinos equip certain employees with panic buttons.
State officials, employees and registered lobbyists also will be required to receive annual training. The law also gives state inspectors general additional time to investigate and file complaints.
A statement from the governor's office on the bill signing makes no mention of Madigan, instead praising the chief sponsors, Democratic Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago and Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake. The House Democrats' statement also acknowledges Williams, quoting her and other female representatives.
"Sexual harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the state of Illinois," Pritzker said in a statement. "Ending the culture of sexism and sexual harassment in workplaces across our state takes a comprehensive approach, and I'm proud that this bi-partisan unanimously-passed legislation ... strengthens workplace protections to hold abusers and enablers accountable."
Alaina Hampton, the former campaign worker who accused Quinn of harassment and has sued Madigan's campaign fund and the state Democratic Party alleging she's been "unjustly punished" for coming forward, said the new law is a sign of "progress when it comes to sexual misconduct in our state."
However, "until there is real justice for victims and meaningful accountability for bad actors, no one should be patting themselves on the back," Hampton said in a statement.
Williams said the legislation was the work of members of all four legislative caucuses.
"This legislation is the result of really years of conversation, interviews with survivors, people that have dealt firsthand with discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace, and kind of condensed many of those conversations down to some big topic areas that we thought needed to be addressed in Illinois law," she said. "And I'm sure as time goes on we'll identify other areas that need improvement, so I'm looking at this as an important first step."
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Williams said she and other House Democratic women have had "numerous conversations with the speaker and our leadership team about opportunities to improve the workplace for people that work in and around the Capitol."
"The issues of harassment and bullying are not limited to one caucus or one party," she said.
A major component of the legislation signed Friday was a measure called the Workplace Transparency Act that Bush passed out of the Senate earlier in the spring. At the time, House Democratic leaders said it would be reviewed along with other related legislation. The entirety of the earlier Senate bill was incorporated into the final package, Bush said.
Bush said she was happy to see Madigan's continued commitment to addressing issues related to sexual harassment.
"There's no bill that becomes law without collaboration between the House and Senate," she said.
While the law Pritzker signed Friday is "one of the biggest pieces of legislation we've seen dealing with sexual harassment anywhere," Bush, like Williams, said there's more work to be done.
"We're not just writing a law," she said. "We're trying to change a culture."
Bush said she'll continue pushing legislation that gives more power to the legislative inspector general to investigate allegations of harassment and other wrongdoing by lawmakers.
As the #MeToo movement was gaining attention nationally in November 2017, a victims' rights advocate publicly accused then-state Sen. Ira Silverstein of sexual harassment. Her complaint called attention to the fact that the legislative inspector general's office had sat vacant for three years. After an inspector general was appointed, Silverstein was eventually cleared of the harassment allegation but found to have behaved "in a manner unbecoming of a legislator."
In the months that followed, Madigan ousted Quinn, the brother of 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, and his longtime chief of staff, Tim Mapes, who was accused of harassment and bullying by a House staff member.
In an op-ed in the Tribune in September, Madigan wrote that he "didn't do enough" to ensure that people were able to report sexual harassment at the Capitol and that he had "made it a personal mission to take this issue head-on and correct past mistakes."
His statement Friday reiterated some of the steps he's taken, including hiring an outside attorney to investigate allegations of harassment and discrimination. Critics have questioned the independence of those investigations.