#MeToo Movement’s Impact on Local Governments: Severance Agreements Related to Sexual Harassment or Discrimination Must be Published

Aug 28, 2018

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In the wake of the #MeToo movement, on August 23, 2018, Public Act 100-1040 (the “Act”) was signed into law, amending the Local Records Act and establishing a new transparency requirement for local units of government, including school districts and community colleges, that enter into severance agreements with employees found to have engaged in sexual harassment or discrimination. The Act is effective immediately.

The Act states that when a public body approves a severance agreement with an employee or contractor because that individual is found to have engaged in sexual harassment or discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it must make the following information available on its website and to the news media within 72 hours:

  1. The full name and title of the person receiving a payment under the severance agreement;
  2. The amount of the severance payment;
  3. The fact that the person was found to have engaged in sexual harassment or discrimination; and
  4. The date, time, and location of the meeting at which the severance agreement was approved.

Notwithstanding the above, the Act provides several exceptions. The above information need not be published if it would:

  1. Interfere with a “pending or actually and reasonably contemplated” law enforcement proceeding;
  2. Interfere with a “pending or actually and reasonably contemplated” legal or administrative proceeding instigated by the complainant of the sexual harassment or discrimination at issue;
  3. Result in the disclosure of the complainant’s identity without the complainant’s consent; or
  4. Endanger the life or physical safety of the complainant.

Additionally, the Act states that its publication requirements “do not supersede the confidentiality provisions of the severance agreement.” Despite these exceptions, however, the Act states it does not limit the disclosure requirements of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

This new Act serves as a reminder of the legislative push for transparency in sexual harassment investigations and findings. In addition, it serves as a reminder to employers of the need to work with legal counsel on employee settlement and separation agreements where sexual harassment or discrimination is at issue.

Feel free to contact any Robbins Schwartz labor and employment attorney if you have questions.