News Local/State

Governor Signs Anti-Harassment Law — One Accuser Disappointed

Denise Rotheimer, left, appears next to Maryann Loncar, another woman who accused a state senator of sexual harassment.

Denise Rotheimer, left, in this file photo from 2018, she appears next to Maryann Loncar, another woman who accused a state senator of sexual harassment. Daisy Contreras/NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed a sweeping anti-sexual harassment law. But one woman who accused a lawmaker of harassment is disappointed with an aspect of the new rules.

Denise Rotheimer says she objects to part of the new law that levies a fine of $5,000 on accusers for leaking information from an ethics commission report before its official release.

“It’s never good public policy to have language in law that’s actually going to be counterproductive and puts the victim at risk of further victimization,” Rotheimer said in a telephone interview. She had wanted the governor to issue an an amendatory veto to strike that language, which was added at the end of the legislative process.

In 2017, Rotheimer accused a state senator of unwanted late-night calls and harassing comments. The Legislative Inspector General found his actions stopped short of harassment, but were nevertheless unbecoming of a senator.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, previously said the purpose of the fine is to prevent redacted information from becoming public.

“This is not to fine victim; this is  to protect everyone's confidentiality and still allow the accuser to see the report before it becomes public,” Bush said.

Meanwhile, Carrie Ward, the executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against  Sexual Assault, says the requirement that all Illinois employees get sexual harassment training stands out.

“We really see that as a move that helps protect employees from sexual harassment,” Ward said. “It takes responsibility for making sure that everyone understands what the definition of sexual harassment is and what that looks like and we think that’s a really important step toward preventing future victims.”

The Illinois Department of Human Rights will create the training.

The multi-faceted law also makes it illegal to sexually harass contract employees, and bars nondisclosure agreements that prevent reporting by sexual harassment victims. It also requires casinos and hotels to provide panic buttons to those who work in isolated places.