Capitol News Illinois - March 20, 2019 | original article

SPRINGFIELD — A package of bills to increase private-sector protections for sexual harassment victims has advanced out of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

The four bills, sponsored by Grayslake Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush, add to lawmakers’ work last session to address sexual harassment and ethics issues in the legislature.

“Last year, we dealt with a lot of things that happened under the dome,” Bush said. “So this year, a lot of the recommendations from the task force were how we deal with different issues in the private sector.”

The task force is the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention. It was formed in May 2018 in legislation that, among other things, allowed sexual harassment complaints at the Capitol to be investigated by the Legislative Inspector General without prior approval from the state ethics commission.

The task force’s most recent suggestions take shape in Bush’s bills, which were advanced Tuesday to the Senate floor with bipartisan support.

“They were the issues that came up over and over again,” Bush said. “But the big one is the nondisclosure agreements.”

Senate Bill 30, or the Workplace Transparency Act, would protect employees from being forced to sign nondisclosure agreements relating to sexual harassment, retaliation and unlawful discrimination.

“You’re seeing these agreements used as ways to protect perpetrators,” Bush said. “Victims are not able to talk about the issues or seek civil remedy for them.”

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Category: In The News

Senator Melinda Bush discusses Ethylene OxideLake County News-Sun - February 22, 2019 | original article

Joining a chorus of voices demanding air quality testing in Lake County areas near local two plants generating ethylene oxide emissions, state Sen. Melinda Bush on Friday sent a letter Friday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and introduced a joint resolution in the General Assembly calling for the testing.

The Grayslake Democrat said in a letter to EPA officials that the major gulf between ethylene oxide (EtO) emission self-reporting results from Sterigenics in Willowbrook and subsequent ambient air monitoring by the federal EPA in the area around the company led to it being shut down by order of the Illinois EPA.

“Public health and safety must be the state and federal government’s overriding concern,” Bush said in the letter. “These reports prove it is unwise, and unsafe, to trust emitters of carcinogens to accurately self-report their emissions.

“The USEPA simply must conduct its own air monitoring to protect the public interest,” Bush added.

Bush also said a joint Senate resolution, calling for federal EPA ambient air testing for EtO in Lake County near the Vantage and Medline plants in Gurnee and Waukegan respectively, was filed Friday and expected to be heard by the Senate March 5.

Bush added she believes the resolution will pass both the Senate and House quickly and be forwarded to federal officials in the near future.

While Bush is carrying the resolution in the Senate, state Rep. Joyce Mason, D-Gurnee, will carry it in the House.

Although some resident groups are demanding “independent testing” near the Vantage plant in Gurnee and the Medline plant in Waukegan, Bush and other local officials stressed the need for federal EPA involvement.

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Category: In The News

Capitol News Illinois - February 25, 2019 | original article

SPRINGFIELD – With more in the works for the new session, 12 bills became law last year as a result of a yearlong investigation by the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention.

“Task forces many times meet, and many times there isn’t a lot of actual legislation that comes out and is signed into law,” said Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat who co-chaired the task force. “So we’re really proud of the work that has been done here.”

Surrounded by several other members of the task force, Bush and fellow co-chair Sen. Jil Tracy, a Quincy Republican, held a news conference Tuesday to discuss the task force’s newly-released report, and to detail some of the legislation that resulted from its investigation last year.

The outcomes included, among other things, legislation that requires lobbyists, legislators and state employees to receive harassment training; extends the statute of limitations for sexual conduct offenses; gives assault victims more rights at medical facilities; and requires taxing bodies to notify the public if an employee is fired for sexual harassment or discrimination.

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Category: In The News

The State Journal Register - February 20, 2019 | original article

SPRINGFIELD — Two senators who co-chaired the Senate's sexual discrimination and harassment awareness task force said Tuesday they want an omnibus bill passed this year to combat harassment in the workplace.

Sens. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, and Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said Senate Bill 1829 will address a wide range of issues to combat sexual harassment, including:

  • Limits on employers requiring non-disclosure agreements, forced arbitration clauses and non-disparagement agreements of employees when it comes to sexual harassment
  • Require employers to have sexual harassment prevention training
  • Require large employers to report on numbers of sexual harassment settlements against them
  • Prohibit court orders that cover up acts of harassment
  • Provides unpaid leave from work for victims of sexual harassment or sexual violence.

A dozen bills were passed by Illinois lawmakers last year after the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace -- including in the Illinois Capitol -- got national attention.

"We know there's a lot more work to be done in this arena and we plan on continuing," Bush said.

In addition to the omnibus bill, bush and Tracy said they want to see enactment of legislation requiring hotels and casinos make panic buttons available to certain employees. The buttons can be used to summon help if the employee feels threatened.

"I do want to say they have already been very proactive and are working to move pieces like that forward in the industry," Bush said.

Category: In The News

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