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Governor Signs Anti-Harassment Law — One Accuser Disappointed

Daisy Contreras
NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed a sweeping anti-sexual harassment law. But one woman who accused a lawmaker of harassment is disappointed with an aspect of the new rules.

Denise Rotheimer says she objects to part of the new law that levies a fine of $5,000 on accusers for leaking information from an inspector general  report's release.

“It’s never good public policy to have language in law that’s actually going to be counterproductive and puts the victim at risk of further victimization,” Rotheimer said in a telephone interview. She had wanted the governor to issue an an amendatory veto to strike that language, which was added at the end of the legislative process.

In 2017, Rotheimer accused a state senator of unwanted late-night calls and harassing comments. The Legislative Inspector General found his actions stopped short of harassment, but were nevertheless unbecoming of a senator.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, previously said the purpose of the fine is to prevent redacted information from becoming public.

“This is not to fine victim; this is  to protect everyone's confidentiality and still allow the accuser to see the report before it becomes public,” Bush said.

Meanwhile, Carrie Ward, the executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against  Sexual Assault, says the requirement that all Illinois employees get sexual harassment training stands out.

“We really see that as a move that helps protect employees from sexual harassment,” Ward said. “It takes responsibility for making sure that everyone understands what the definition of sexual harassment is and what that looks like and we think that’s a really important step toward preventing future victims.”

The Illinois Department of Human Rights will create the training.

The multi-faceted law also makes it illegal to sexually harass contract employees, and bars nondisclosure agreements that prevent reporting by sexual harassment victims. It also requires casinos and hotels to provide panic buttons to those who work in isolated places.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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