essentialemployeeCHAMPAIGN – A measure co-sponsored by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) that increases public employee benefits, protects retail workers and expands collective bargaining rights was signed into law Friday.

“Front-line workers have put their own wellbeing on the line to provide essential services during this crisis,” Bennett said. “This new law ensures workers are properly protected as we continue to battle COVID-19.”

Certain state employees, including firefighters, law enforcement and paramedics, would be eligible for an additional 60 days of paid disability leave if their injury recovery has been hindered by difficulties accessing treatment due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

To recognize the essential role retail workers have taken on during this public health emergency, battery of a retail worker would be enhanced to aggravated battery if the worker was performing duties like relaying directions for health care or safety. The enhancement would also set in if the act is committed during a declared disaster or state of emergency due to a public health emergency, and for an additional six months after the declaration.

“Workers do not deserve harassment for enforcing state-issued safety guidelines,” Bennett said. “Expanding legal protections for workers is the right thing to do.”

Senate Bill 471 is effective immediately.

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