Speaker Madigan Passes Harassment Protections through Committee, Announces Creation of Task Force to Recommend Further Changes
CHICAGO – House Speaker Michael J. Madigan outlined a plan to combat sexual harassment in state government Tuesday, passing legislation through a House committee that will require all lawmakers, staff and lobbyists to complete annual harassment training, and announcing the creation of a task force that will study further changes needed to address the problem of workplace harassment in both the public and private sectors.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace. This is particularly true in our Capitol, a building that belongs to every woman and man in Illinois,” Madigan said. “Legislative changes are a critical step, but far from a final step. Ultimately, eliminating sexual harassment will require cultures to change. That’s why in addition to continuing to work with lawmakers and advocates to create the strongest legislation possible, I am forming a task force which will lead a continuing conversation on this topic, and recommend further changes to combat workplace harassment both in our government and in the private sector.”
Madigan’s Senate Bill 402 expands existing sexual harassment protections in the Capitol and legislative offices by requiring all lawmakers, staff and lobbyists to complete annual sexual harassment training, including specific examples of what constitutes harassment. All lobbyists will be further required to prepare and submit sexual harassment policies, like legislators do currently. Madigan’s bill also empowers state inspectors general and ethics commissions to investigate allegations, and assess fines of up to $5,000 for incidents of harassment. The measure received bipartisan support in the House Personnel & Pensions Committee. Senate President John Cullerton, and Republican leaders Jim Durkin and Bill Brady have come out in favor of Madigan’s bill.
Madigan also announced that he will establish a Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment, to be chaired by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie. Listening to input from all stakeholders, the task force will be charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the legal and social consequences of sexual discrimination and harassment in both the public and private sectors, and make actionable recommendations to the General Assembly on changes that will improve reporting of allegations, protect those who report harassment, and prevent sexual discrimination and harassment.
The lack of a legislative inspector general ought to be addressed post haste.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Tony Yuscius at BlueRoomStream.com briefly interviewed Speaker Madigan after today’s hearing. Tony asked Madigan if he feels the issue of sexual harassment has been treated seriously over the years or if it has been glossed over…
I think that historically there have been deficiencies. I know in my office, the Office of the Speaker, we’ve been very aggressive on matters such as this. If we can do better, that’s what we’re going to do. And that’s the commitment we made today and that’s the commitment that we’re making in this legislation. If we can do better, that’s what we’re going to do.
“There were instances where complaints were filed with the ethics officer, people including legislators were called in and told ‘You better knock it off because we won’t tolerate it in the Office of the Speaker,” Madigan said.
But will the new legislation change a “knock it off” culture?
“You’re going to have it in statute, mandatory training. You’ll have it in the statute that the matter is subject to fine,” Madigan said.
And his advice to legislators who perhaps thought they could get away with harassment: “Better knock it off because you’re going to get in big trouble. And you can ask a member of the Senate that question,” the speaker said.
Conduct this training in the chambers, on legislative days, mandating attendance. Let them Vote their switch that they “understand”. Having it on the record at least provides some backup for the inevitable, “I didn’t interpret it that way”.
Announcing the appointment of an inspector general should have happened first. It should have happened last week when he introduced his legislation. He is operating out of the standard playbook right now and this is not a standard situation.
Actually, appointments to this task force could be interesting. What men will serve on this task force? It is like Jesus said, “let the first without blame come forward first”. (cite parable of woman caught in adultery).
Pols try to take care of their own, and Madigan has always tried to do it to strengthen his position as Speaker. Leaving the IG position was one way. I’m sure it was a simple oversight….it’s painful to see the cockroaches scurry once the kitchen light is turned on at midnight. (Not my House of course)
What was the Speaker laughing about, especially at the :54 mark? Was he hoping for an edited version of the interview before it posted? That is not going to play well, and could potentially be fodder for Team Rauner.
I wonder how large the room is that is filled with the paperwork (in the old days) of all the thousands of Task Force material - not much after the first one or two meetings I’d guess. As for the positive and meaningful outcomes, no room is needed. There are none, then or now.
For the 18 plus years I was employed by the IDOC, we had mandatory training in multiple areas. Sexual harassment was one of those areas. It was covered every year, and a signed test was involved. I think this same format should be used, so an individual can be held accountable. “I didn’t know” can not be used as an excuse.
- Old Cousin Lou - Tuesday, Oct 31, 17 @ 12:42 pm:
Madigan is going to require significant and meaningful teaining.
And to be sure it is done properly, he will mandate that it take place at the Madigan School of Training to Prevent Harassment. Cost is only $10,000 per student. Certificate of completion will be provided upon full receipt of tuition.
===apparently there must have been wide spread harassment in the office of the Speaker===
I’m no fan of his, but this is dumb. Pursuing it aggressively when it happens (which it’s bound to sometimes over his 10 million years in the office) does not equate to there being widespread harassment. No logical connection there.
yes I have been the speaker for 30 years. yes there appears to be a problem with sexual harassment. Yes I have hand picked all the legislative leadership posts for many years. Yes there is currently no Legislative Inspector General and hasn’t been for years…. but no of course I am not responsible
===apparently there must have been wide spread harassment in the office of the Speaker===
Ugh. The Speaker isn’t on my hit parade, but c’mon. What in the world would indicate that his personality would put up with any of this in his office? That environment is completely lacking any fun, let alone frivolity or kissy face business. Even the lobbyists know to behave in there. This guy may have some flaws and deficiencies; well chronicled in fact. Something like this isn’t one of them.
I doubt he’ll have an ounce of sympathy for anyone who has done this. I believe this would repulse him. Few people know him well, but the one who knows him better than any other living being would be utterly intolerant of this. And I’m as certain as can be that this would have rubbed off on him.
After a few hours of reflection my reaction to today is that neither Madigan nor especially Cullerton appear to have been very prepared for how this House hearing was going to shake out and how it would make them look. Certainly they did not appear to have adequate responses for the media’s questions. Pablum like “I knew nothing” and “we must do better” is the best they can do? If I were running a hearing on a hot button-topic I think I’d put out some feelers to get a sense of what sorts of things might be said during it.
- BothSidesofHisMouth - Tuesday, Oct 31, 17 @ 3:58 pm:
Former MJM staffer here. Yes, staff experienced harassment from members of our own caucus and the other side from time to time. However, I am not aware of ANY staffers who ever were treated inappropriately by the Speaker himself, or his Chief of Staff, or his Spokesman. And I do know talks were had with members who were complained about by staff. This comes back to what some of us have been saying over and over: You can’t fire or suspend elected officials like you can regular employees. So there have not been a lot of options for punishment. In fact, the offender is pretty much guaranteed to remain in office while the complaining staffer or lobbyist may end up feeling pushed out of the scene due to embarrassment/shame/being made to feel like a “nark” or feeling like the angry glares and suddenly hostile argumentative testimony coming from the offender in committee hearings is too much to try to work around.
I’m sorry, but “Knock it off or you’ll really be in trouble” in response to people filing allegations sounds like the Good Ol Boy network protecting it own with warning shots instead of actual investigations and consequences.
Agencies under the governor were required to annually take sexual harassment training. It was a common sense course and should be more properly titled Prevention of sexual harassment training. I think some like Silverstein got confused by the title.