Breaking News

Illinois Healthy Workplace Advocates update on
Abusive Work Environments Act-

Jonathan Lackland, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Minorities in Government, and Carrie Clark, founder of IllinoisHWA, have been lobbying Senators in Springfield for weeks to pass Senate Bill #3566.

It passed!!! (37-Yea; 15 Nay; 17 No vote)

Senator Delgado has explained that ‘no votes’ are due to what is to happen next. This bill now goes to the House for amendments they may want to add, or former amendments the House may want to change. The House will then vote. The discussion may be heated; this bill is contentious; the House is inclined toward loud screaming voices.

Representative Art Turner is passing his chief sponsorship to Representative Eddie Washington. Both have a heart for this bill, but Rep. Washington has more time at present to work on it. Rep. Turner will stay on as a co-sponsor.

By February’s end, two lobbyists from the far-right religious political movement, including Eagle Forum, Illinois Family Institute, and Concerned Citizens, presented their argument from last year that the bill should include religious protections so “expressions” of their morals and views would not be considered “abusive conduct.” From their hard lobbying, several senators were convinced that without such language, passage of this Act might cost them re-election should the far-right align against them at the polls.

IAMG and IllinoisHWA are concerned this might subject those with opposing views to “religious persecution,” especially the gay population whom many far- right Christians think to be immoral. It would be counterproductive to our mission if bullying workers use this Act as an avenue to abuse co-workers’ who can neither fight nor take flight from emotional attack. This hard line, far-right stance is a national, predominately anti-gay rights trend to force religious views on others under protection of the First Amendment.

The religious far-right succeeded with the following language:
For the purposes of this act, expression of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article I of the Illinois Constitution including the exercise of free speech, free expression, and free exercise of religion or expression of religiously based views shall not be considered “abusive conduct” unless the intent is to intimidate or harass . [emphasis ours]

We fought hard to have the final clause read: “unless the effect is ‘tangible harm.'” Intent is very difficult to prove. “Tangible harm” or medical evidence is already defined in the bill and is required to utilize this Act anyway. We failed this goal, but Senator Delgado said, “…making law is incremental.” This language can be built upon in later sessions or even changed this session in the House.

Two more Senators immediately signed on as co-sponsors.

The Abusive Work Environments Act is indeed going forward. The House has many more legislators and will not be easy. Senators who voted ‘no’ or ‘no vote’ will have to be asked to reconsider.

We are going to need help from Illinois Healthy Workplace Advocates to attend a Lobby Day at a to-be-decided date in April. In the meantime, you can write and call your Illinois senators and representatives. We are slowly moving through the house and YOU can help sweep this landmark legislation through. Together, we can make this world a better place for all.

What YOU can do NOW to help this important, humane legislation:
To find your legislators in both houses: http://www.elections.illinois.gov/DistrictLocator/SelectSearchType.aspx?NavLink=1
To contact your senator:
http://www.ilga.gov/senate/default.asp
To contact your representative:
http://www.ilga.gov/house/
Fax or snail mail your story with or without your true identity, explaining your fear if this is the case, to:
Jonathan Lackland, IAMG, Executive Director
110 West Edwards, Springfield, IL 62704
FX: (217)753-1277
Please, try to limit this to one page…just the facts, Gentlepeople.

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