SPRINGFIELD — Responding to an outpouring of complaints from women about sexual harassment in Illinois politics and government, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has introduced a measure to require sexual harassment training for government officials and to publish the names of those who don’t comply.
The legislation will be discussed at a committee hearing in Chicago on Tuesday, said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. A vote is expected when the House returns to Springfield the week of Nov. 6.
Inspired by the #MeToo social media campaign that encourages women to raise awareness about sexual harassment by sharing their experiences of being harassed, more than than 200 people signed onto a letter circulated by women involved in Illinois politics that called for “challenging every elected official, every candidate, and every participant in our democratic process who is culpable.” An affiliated Facebook group has been collecting stories from women who work in the Illinois political scene and say they’ve been harassed.
The Chicago City Council Women’s Caucus also released a letter this week, committing themselves “to ending the culture of sexism that exists in the halls of power” and calling on male colleagues to “have our backs, and look inward to examine what you or those around you may have done to perpetuate this culture.”
“Many of us have ‘Me Too’ stories,” says the letter from the 13-member caucus of female aldermen. The letter does not talk about instances of harassment or abuse at City Hall, but says “women must support one another in this moment.”
Earlier this week, Madigan issued a statement in which he noted that members of the House are required to have sexual harassment policies for their individual offices. But, the speaker added, “we can and should do more to ensure no individual is the target of sexual harassment in the Capitol or anywhere else.”
Madigan’s measure would amend Illinois ethics law to require that the executive branch, legislative leaders, members of the General Assembly, the auditor general and higher education boards establish procedures for individuals to report allegations of sexual harassment and spell out disciplinary action for violators.
Under the proposal, state government officers and employees would be required to complete an in-person sexual harassment training program that must include a description of sexual harassment and examples of the behavior. Proof of completion of the training would be required, and the names of people who had failed to complete the training would be made public on ethics websites.
Lobbyists also would be required to complete a training program and to develop their own sexual harassment policies.