Lawmaker Response to State Workplace Violence Bills A Mixed Bag

Apr 17, 2018

Illinois state legislators and advocates say state employees need more protection from a growing trend of workplace violence. But statehouse measures addressing that have gotten a mixed reception. 

Most are a response to a surge of violence against those who work for agencies like DCFS and the Department of Corrections. Government employees in Illinois reported some of the highest numbers of workplace injuries in 2016, according to the most recent data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the death of Pam Knight, a DCFS worker in Dixon, is the first death in the recent string of workplace-related violence. Authorities say Knight was hurt when trying to take a child into protective custody. Her alleged assailant, 25 year-old Andrew Sucher, is awaiting trial.

In response, Republican state Representative Tony McCombie offered a fix: up the minimum jail time for that kind of crime. 

“It really is a no-brainer,"she said. "We need to be putting our state employees and our families first. We need to send a message: you can not physically harm an individual. People cannot treat other people like this.”

But a Democrat-controlled House committee struck down that measure, with a majority saying they wanted to avoid enhancing criminal penalties. 

Another measure, from Tinley Park Democrat Michael Hastings, was approved by a Senate committee. That proposal would require some state agencies to hand over reports of violent incidents to the legislature.

McCombie says she’ll support that effort, but remains skeptical about what the effort will do to stop the problem.