OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER RELEASES REPORT OF WORKPLACE CULTURE

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Photo by Daniel Schwen

Independent Report Cites Important Changes Already in Place, Recommends Further Actions to Improve Overall Capitol Culture 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, in collaboration with an advisory group of women members of the House Democratic Caucus, today released – in full – an unredacted report prepared by Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor and Inspector General for Governor Rauner, detailing the findings of her independent review of the workplace culture within the Office of the Speaker and providing insight into the environment in the Capitol. In 2018, Speaker Madigan and an advisory group comprised of female members requested Hickey conduct a thorough review of prior allegations of harassment and make recommendations for improvements.

“I welcomed this independent review to better understand the workplace culture within the Office of the Speaker and to help improve the environment in the Capitol,” Madigan said. “I thank Ms. Hickey for her professionalism and commitment to this process, as well as the staff, House members, lobbyists, and others who were interviewed as part of this report.” 

As part of her review, Hickey examined the operations of the Office of the Speaker, including the Office of the Clerk, and interviewed more than 100 current and former staff members, as well as members of the General Assembly and lobbyists. Those interviewed described interactions with co-workers and other individuals who are not employed by the Office, including those employed by other caucuses or elected officials, lobbyists, and members of the general public.

“I take responsibility for not doing enough previously to prevent issues in my office, and continue to believe that we, collectively, need to do more in the Capitol to improve our workplace culture and protect the women and men who work here who want to make a difference in the world,” Madigan said. “While the Office of the Speaker has taken many steps to improve and will work to adopt Ms. Hickey’s recommendations, Ms. Hickey’s report makes clear there is more to be done. As part of my full commitment to change the culture, I am ready to work with the other legislative caucuses to ensure that everyone has a safe workplace.”

Madigan said that issues with harassment in the workplace go beyond the Capitol. “This is an issue that affects all workplaces and individuals from all walks of life. We must vigilantly work to eliminate employment-related discrimination and harassment, and address workplace equality not only in the Capitol, but across Illinois.”

The members of the advisory group involved with Hickey’s selection issued a statement thanking those who participated in the review and reaffirming their commitment to change the culture. The advisory group includes Representatives Kelly Burke, Deb Conroy, Jehan Gordon-Booth, Lisa Hernandez, Camille Lilly, Theresa Mah, Natalie Manley, Ann Williams, and Kathleen Willis. Former Representative Melissa Conyears-Ervin was involved during her tenure. The advisory group will continue working with the Office of the Speaker on implementation of further reforms.

“We are grateful for those who have shared their own personal and often difficult experiences – both publicly and privately – in an effort to bring positive change to the Capitol work environment,” said Representative Ann Williams, on behalf of the group. “Each allegation made and every story told has contributed to the larger conversation, and underscores our commitment to rebuild our workplace on a foundation of respect for each and every individual. Though these findings were often difficult to read, the report further solidified our commitment to provide a professional and respectful workplace environment not just in our own House, but throughout the Capitol. As members of the House Democratic Caucus, we take responsibility, individually and collectively, to right these wrongs and ensure a safe, healthy, and respectful workplace for all who work there.”

Using criteria established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hickey found the Capitol presents many challenges and risk factors that make harassment more likely to occur, and the report details the various challenges that employees and employers face in an environment such as the Capitol atmosphere. To combat this, Hickey recommends the Office of the Speaker should consider unique and innovative ways to address these challenges and risk factors, particularly by partnering with the other legislative caucuses, as well as other entities that interact with legislative staff. The report makes several recommendations for improvement, particularly given the unique challenges of employing a significant number of people who are young or new to the workforce.

“I commit to all of our staff, particularly those who are new to the workforce, that we will provide you with a supportive atmosphere that encourages professional growth and development, and that provides you with the necessary tools to thrive in our unique environment,” said Madigan in response to Hickey’s recommendations. “I want the Office to be a place where everyone is comfortable to bring forth allegations, knowing that they will be treated fairly and with compassion.”

In her report, Hickey found the Office of the Speaker has taken significant actions to address concerns and challenges faced by staff, and staff confirmed the environment has improved since the beginning of the #MeToo movement. Her report details actions taken by the Office of the Speaker and rank-and-file members (see pages 119-121 of the Hickey Report). A few of the key actions taken to change the environment for staff include:

§  Created a Human Resources Unit and hired an Equal Employment Opportunity Officer;

§  Improved the process for responding to and investigating allegations of discrimination or harassment, as well as general workplace complaints;

§  Conduct frequent trainings customized to addressing the unique challenges of the legislative environment (in additional to what is required by law);

§  Hold specialized training for supervisors, directors, and human resources staff;

§  Convene regular meetings with supervisors and staff, both on a one-on-one basis and in group settings;

§  Implemented numerous staffing changes and implemented an “open door policy” for the Chief of Staff, Human Resources personnel, and all directors;

§  Revised personnel policies, with continuous staff contact so all staff know the rules and their rights; and

§  Implemented additional skills training for staff to help employees become more confident in their skills and grow their career opportunities.

The Office intends to build upon the current momentum of these improvements by planning further actions, consistent with Hickey’s recommendations. For example, the Office plans to expand the Human Resources operation related to various training efforts, recruitment and onboarding processes, and general personnel management activities.  

The report and supplemental documents can be found at www.ilhousedems.com.