Illinois law adds penalty for attacking workers who enforce health, safety guidelines

People wearing masks are seen walking near a restaurant's 'party of 4 max, no drinks without food' sign as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus.. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Ima

On Friday, Illinois Gov. J.B.Pritzker announced several efforts to protect communities and frontline workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to an emergency rule that allows public health officials to issue fines to businesses where employees or patrons aren’t wearing face coverings, Gov. Pritzker also signed Senate Bill 471 which, in part, is designed to protect retail workers/merchants who are attacked or assaulted for relaying health or safety guidelines.

Senate Bill 471 says aggravated battery can now include assaulting a merchant who is trying to follow healthcare protocol:

"Offense based on status of victim. A person commits aggravated battery when, in committing a battery, other than by discharge of a firearm, he or she knows the individual battered to be any of the following . . .

A merchant: (i) while performing his or her duties, including, but not limited to, relaying directions for healthcare or safety from his or her supervisor or employer or relaying health or safety guidelines,recommendations, regulations, or rules from a federal, State, or local public health agency; and (ii) during a disaster declared by the Governor, or a state of emergency declared by the mayor of the municipality in which the merchant is located, due to a public health emergency and for a period of 6 months after such declaration," the bill states. 

Illinois lawmakers hope this provision will send the message that it’s important for workers to be both respected and protected while working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As our state faces the challenges created by the ongoing global pandemic, we are doing all we can to support and protect our front line and essential workers,” said State Representative Jay Hoffman. “This legislation allows front line workers that have been impacted by COVID-19 to focus on recovering while sending a clear message to all our essential workers that we are behind them and will do all we can to protect their safety and well-being.”  

In addition, Senate Bill 471 also increases paid disability leave for any injury that occurs after March 9, 2020 by 60 days for firefighters, law enforcement and paramedics whose recovery was hindered by COVID-19. 

Eligible employees include: 

Any part-time or full-time State correctional officer or any other full or part-time employee of the Department of Corrections 
Any full or part-time employee of the Prisoner Review Board 
Any full or part-time employee of the Department of Human Services working within a penal institution or a State mental health or developmental disabilities facility operated by the Department of Human Services 
Any full-time law enforcement officer or full-time firefighter