While a new measure in Illinois looks to protect employees in sexual harassment cases, advocates for businesses want the bill to be fair for employers as well.
Mark Grant, state director for National Federation of Independent Business in Illinois, said it is important to make sure the law is put into place the right way, giving businesses a fair chance to defend themselves against sexual harassment accusations.
“Our job, of course, is to watch out for the small businesses in the state, making sure they get a fair deal out of what’s going on here,” Grant said. “In Illinois, it’s getting a little harder for businesses to compete. Anytime you add more regulatory burden on them it gets that much tougher, so we’re doing our best to help them out.”
According to Senate Bill 1829, introduced by Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), “the Workplace Transparency Act. provides that an employer shall not enter into a contract or agreement with an employee or applicant if that contract or agreement contains a nondisclosure or non-disparagement clause or forced arbitration clause that covers workplace harassment or discrimination.”
“If this goes through, it’s probably the kind of thing where it’s a work in progress,” Grant said. “They may have to go back and re-examine it a couple of times as it gets put into place to find out how it works.”
Grant said small businesses are especially affected when facing sexual harassment lawsuits.
“It creates a lot more problems for that small business if they have to go out and hire attorneys, so forth,” Grant said. “It can be financially devastating for the smallest of businesses, so those are the ones we’re most concerned about.”
Grant said laws often fail to consider how a small business is affected differently from big businesses.
“When laws get written, oftentimes it’s kind of a one-size-fits-all,” Grant said. “Whether you have 1,200 employees or whether you have five employees, the law doesn’t always work the same for each case. They want it to be the same, but certainly, the repercussions for making a mistake are a lot worse for that small business.”
Grant adds that the law needs to give employers a chance to fix mistakes in sexual harassment cases.
“If employers make mistakes they need to be able to correct those mistakes,” Grant said. “They need to be able to show that they’re making corrections on those.”