Illinois General Assembly - Full Text of SB3566
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Full Text of SB3566  96th General Assembly




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1     AN ACT concerning employment.
2     Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
3 represented in the General Assembly:
4     Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the
5 Abusive Work Environment Act.
6     Section 5. Findings and purpose.
7     (a) Findings. The General Assembly finds that:
8         (1) The social and economic well-being of the State is
9     dependent upon healthy and productive employees.
10         (2) Between 37% and 59% of employees directly
11     experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse,
12     and harassment, and this mistreatment is approximately 4
13     times more prevalent than sexual harassment alone.
14         (3) Workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment can
15     inflict serious harm upon targeted employees, including
16     feelings of shame and humiliation, severe anxiety,
17     depression, suicidal tendencies, an impaired immune
18     system, hypertension, an increased risk of cardiovascular
19     disease, and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic
20     stress disorder.
21         (4) Abusive work environments can have serious
22     consequences for employers, including reduced employee
23     productivity and morale, higher turnover and absenteeism



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1     rates, and increases in medical and workers' compensation
2     claims.
3         (5) If mistreated employees who have been subjected to
4     abusive treatment at work cannot establish that the
5     behavior was motivated by race, color, sex, sexual
6     orientation, national origin, or age, they are unlikely to
7     be protected by the law against such mistreatment.
8         (6) Legal protection from abusive work environments
9     should not be limited to behavior grounded in protected
10     class status as that provided for under employment
11     discrimination statutes.
12         (7) Existing workers' compensation plans and
13     common-law tort actions are inadequate to discourage this
14     behavior or to provide adequate relief to employees who
15     have been harmed by abusive work environments.
16     (b) Purposes. The purposes of this Act are:
17         (1) to provide legal relief for employees who have been
18     harmed, psychologically, physically, or economically, by
19     being deliberately subjected to abusive work environments;
20     and
21         (2) to provide legal incentive for employers to prevent
22     and respond to abusive mistreatment of employees at work.
23     Section 10. Definitions. As used in this Act:
24     (a) "Abusive work environment" means an environment that
25 exists when the defendant, acting with malice, subjects an



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1 employee to abusive conduct so severe that it causes tangible
2 harm to the employee.
3         (1) "Abusive conduct" means conduct, including acts,
4     omissions, or both, that a reasonable person would find
5     hostile, based on the severity, nature, and frequency of
6     the defendant's conduct. Abusive conduct may include, but
7     is not limited to: repeated infliction of verbal abuse such
8     as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets;
9     verbal or physical conduct of a threatening, intimidating,
10     or humiliating nature; the sabotage or undermining of an
11     employee's work performance; or attempts to exploit an
12     employee's known psychological or physical vulnerability.
13     A single act normally will not constitute abusive conduct,
14     but an especially severe and egregious act may meet this
15     standard.
16         (2) "Malice" means the desire to cause pain, injury, or
17     distress to another.
18     (b) "Tangible harm" means psychological harm or physical
19 harm.
20         (1) "Psychological harm" means the material impairment
21     of a person's mental health, as established by competent
22     evidence.
23         (2) "Physical harm" means the material impairment of a
24     person's physical health or bodily integrity, as
25     established by competent evidence.
26     (c) "Adverse employment action" means an action that



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1 includes, but is not limited to, a termination, demotion,
2 unfavorable reassignment, failure to promote, disciplinary
3 action, or reduction in compensation.
4     (d) "Constructive discharge" exists where: (1) the
5 employee reasonably believed he or she was subjected to abusive
6 conduct; (2) the employee resigned because of that abusive
7 conduct; and (3) prior to resigning, the employee brought to
8 the employer's attention the existence of the abusive conduct
9 and the employer failed to take reasonable steps to correct the
10 situation. A constructive discharge shall be considered a
11 termination, and, therefore, an adverse employment action
12 within the meaning of this Act.
13     (e) "Employer" includes the State or any subdivision
14 thereof, any county, municipality, unit of local government,
15 school district, community college district, municipal or
16 public corporation, or State university.
17     Section 15. Unlawful employment practices.
18     (a) Abusive work environment. It shall be an unlawful
19 employment practice under this Act to subject an employee to an
20 abusive work environment as defined by this Act. For purposes
21 of this Act, expression protected by the First Amendment of the
22 Constitution of the United States and Article I of the Illinois
23 Constitution including the exercise of free speech, free
24 expression, and free exercise of religion or expression of
25 religiously based views shall not be considered "abusive



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1 conduct" unless the intent is to intimidate or harass.
2     (b) Retaliation. It shall be an unlawful employment
3 practice under this Act to retaliate in any manner against an
4 employee who has opposed any unlawful employment practice under
5 this Act, or who has made a charge, testified, assisted, or
6 participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding
7 under this Act, including, but not limited to, internal
8 complaints and proceedings, arbitration and mediation
9 proceedings, and legal actions.
10     Section 20. Employer liability and defense.
11     (a) Employer liability. An employer shall be vicariously
12 liable for an unlawful employment practice, as defined by this
13 Act, committed by its employee.
14     (b) Employer's affirmative defense. Where the alleged
15 unlawful employment practice does not include an adverse
16 employment action, it shall be an affirmative defense for an
17 employer only that:
18         (1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent
19     and correct promptly any actionable behavior; and
20         (2) the complainant employee unreasonably failed to
21     take advantage of appropriate preventive or corrective
22     opportunities provided by the employer.
23     Section 25. Employee liability and defense.
24     (a) Employee liability. An employee may be individually



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1 liable for an unlawful employment practice as defined by this
2 Act.
3     (b) Employee affirmative defense. It shall be an
4 affirmative defense for an employee only that the employee
5 committed an unlawful employment practice, as defined in this
6 Act, at the direction of the employer, under threat of an
7 adverse employment action.
8     Section 30. Affirmative defenses. It shall be an
9 affirmative defense that:
10     (1) the complaint is based on an adverse employment action
11 reasonably made for poor performance, misconduct, or economic
12 necessity;
13     (2) the complaint is based on a reasonable performance
14 evaluation; or
15     (3) the complaint is based on an employer's reasonable
16 investigation about potentially illegal or unethical activity.
17     Section 35. Relief.
18     (a) Relief generally. Where a defendant has been found to
19 have committed an unlawful employment practice under this Act,
20 the court may enjoin the defendant from engaging in the
21 unlawful employment practice and may order any other relief
22 that is deemed appropriate, including, but not limited to,
23 reinstatement, removal of the offending party from the
24 complainant's work environment, back pay, front pay, medical



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1 expenses, compensation for emotional distress, punitive
2 damages, and attorney's fees.
3     (b) Employer liability. Where an employer has been found to
4 have committed an unlawful employment practice under this Act
5 that did not culminate in an adverse employment action, its
6 liability for damages for emotional distress shall not exceed
7 $25,000, and it shall not be subject to punitive damages. This
8 provision does not apply to an individually named employee
9 defendant.
10     Section 40. Procedures.
11     (a) Private right of action. This Act shall be enforced
12 solely by a private right of action.
13     (b) Time limitations. An action under this Act must be
14 commenced no later than one year after the last act that
15 constitutes the alleged unlawful employment practice.
16     Section 45. Effect on other legal relationships. The
17 remedies provided for in this Act shall be in addition to any
18 remedies provided under any other law, and nothing in this Act
19 shall relieve any person from any liability, duty, penalty or
20 punishment provided by any other law, except that if an
21 employee receives workers' compensation for medical costs for
22 the same injury or illness pursuant to both this Act and the
23 Workers' Compensation Act, or compensation under both this Act
24 and that Act in cash payments for the same period of time not



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1 working as a result of the compensable injury or illness or the
2 unlawful employment practice, the payments of workers'
3 compensation shall be reimbursed from compensation paid under
4 this Act.