By Tom M. Cramer, J.D.
Illinois has passed a new law to protect hotel and casino employees from sexual harassment and violence. Signed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, the law requires each hotel and casino to provide for those employees assigned to work on their own in a guest room, restroom or casino floor with a portable emergency contact device or panic button that can be used to summon help in case the employee believes there is an ongoing crime, sexual harassment or assault, or another type of emergency occurring. The employee needs to be reasonable in this assumption. The Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act becomes effective on July 1, 2020.
The law applies to all casinos and hotels located in Illinois, regardless of their size or number of guest rooms. For the purposes of this law, the term “employee” includes both full- and part-time employees as well as employees of subcontractors.
Among the law’s requirements for hotels and casinos is the development of a written anti-sexual harassment policy designed to protect their employees from sexual assault and harassment by guests. The law prescribes that this policy must do the following:
- Offer encouragement to employees to immediately report any instance of a guest sexually assaulting or harassing them; and
- Create and communicate the procedure
that employees can use to act on potential assaults or violence. For example,
employees who are fearful of sexual assault, harassment, or other violence by a
- may cease work and leave the immediate area until assistance is provided by the employer and/or the police;
- may receive a temporary work assignment for the duration of the offending guest’s stay at the hotel/casino;
- may receive paid time off to file a police report or criminal complaint and, if required, testify as a witness at a resulting legal proceeding; and
- will be informed of their state law rights against sexual harassment and retaliation (including retaliation for reasonably using a panic device and availing themselves of the protections afforded by the anti-sexual harassment policy).
In addition, this policy must be available to employees in English, Spanish, and any other language is spoken by a majority of its staff. It must also be posted in conspicuous workplace locations.
The Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act creates a private cause of action for employees and their representatives, provided that prior to filing suit, a representative of the employee notifies the hotel/casino employer in writing of the alleged violation and affords the employer 15 calendar days to remedy the violation. Damages under the act include, but are not limited to, reinstatement, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees and costs. Economic damages are capped at $350 per violation but each day a violation continues constitutes a separate violation.
Cramer Law understands and has handled cases in which employees have feared for their safety or have believed a crime was ongoing and action needed to be taken. The panic buttons or other types of emergency devices that employers will provide will also require training for appropriate use.