Pursuant to Public Act 100-1040 (“Act”), effective immediately, any unit of local government, school district* or other local taxing body (collectively referred to as a “taxing body”) that enters into a severance agreement with an employee or contractor who has engaged in sex discrimination or sexual harassment is required to publish “information” regarding such agreement within 72 hours of its approval by the taxing body. See 50 ILCS 205/3c (new). The Act requires the taxing body to publish the following information:
- The full name and title of the employee or contractor receiving a payment under the severance agreement;
- The amount of the payment;
- The employee or contractor was found to have engaged in sex discrimination or sexual harassment as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”); and
- The date, time and location of the meeting at which the taxing body approved the severance agreement.
The taxing body must publish this information through two outlets—(1) by posting it on the taxing body’s website if it maintains a website and (2) by providing it to the news media as defined by the Act for inspection and copying.
Nevertheless, a taxing body may withhold this information if its disclosure would cause one of the following situations:
- Interference with pending or actually and reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceedings conducted by any law enforcement agency;
- Interference with pending or actually and reasonably contemplated legal or administrative proceedings instigated by the complainant of the sex discrimination or sexual harassment under the IHRA, Title VII or civil law;
- Result in the direct or indirect disclosure of the identity of a complainant who has not consented to the disclosure of his or her identity; or
- Endanger the life or physical safety of the complainant.
A taxing body may also withhold this information if the severance agreement contains a confidentiality provision. Specifically, the Act states that the publication requirements “do not supersede the confidentiality provisions of the severance agreement.” Therefore, if the severance agreement includes a confidentiality clause, then the taxing body is not required to publish the information as required by law.
Notwithstanding the above exceptions, taxing bodies must remember that the severance agreement remains subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). See 5 ILCS 140/2.20. In fact, the Act states that “[n]othing in this [Act] shall limit disclosure of public records required to be disclosed” under FOIA. Therefore, while a taxing body may initially withhold publication of the above information under one of the Act’s exceptions, the taxing body may nevertheless be required to produce the information pursuant to a FOIA request, unless the information may be withheld under one of FOIA’s exemptions.
The Act contains an immunity provision to shield taxing bodies from any liability arising out of their compliance with its requirements, such as a claim for defamation by the employee or contractor. Specifically, the Act states that no taxing body “shall incur liability as a result of its compliance with this [Act], except for willful or wanton misconduct.” As a practical matter, this provision will not prevent a disgruntled employee or contractor from filing a lawsuit, but should provide the taxing body with an absolute defense absent extraordinary circumstances.
Finally, neither the Local Records Act nor the Act contain specific penalties or provide a civil cause of action for a taxing body’s failure to comply with the Act’s requirements.
*This amendment does not apply to any charter schools, even those authorized by the State Charter School Commission.