New Illinois Employment Laws Call For A Handbook Refresh In 2019

In Illinois, 2018 was a year of expansion of employee rights. Illinois employers would be wise to update their policies and practices promptly to ensure compliance. Read on for details on some of the new Illinois employment laws effective now.

Employers May Need to Pay for Employee Cell Phones and Home Internet

Under the Wage Payment and Collection Act, employers are now required to reimburse employees for “necessary expenditures” or losses that are incurred by the employee, within the scope of employment and that are directly related to services performed for the employer. Necessary expenses may include telecommuting-related expenses, or “bring your own” device policies. Reimbursement policies must conform to new statutory requirements.

Employees Have More Time, and Fewer Hurdles, to Sue for Discrimination

The Illinois Human Rights Act was amended to allow more time for employees to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). Employees now have 300 days to file an alleged discrimination or harassment complaint from the date of the alleged event, up from 180. In addition, employees may move faster through the process, and get to resolution sooner, via new investigation “opt out” rights. Employers must also include in their handbook new notices about the right to be free from sexual harassment.

Equal Pay Protections Expand to Race

The Illinois Equal Pay Act, previously limited to addressing pay gaps between women and men and women, now also prohibits pay disparities between African-Americans and non-African Americans. Employers are prohibited from paying African-American employees less than non-African American employees performing the same or substantially similar work on jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility and for work that is performed under similar working conditions.

Chicago Opens Office to Expand Enforcement of City Wage and Leave Ordinances

The Chicago City Council unanimously approved the creation of the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) to enforce the city’s minimum wage, paid sick time and anti-wage theft laws. The OLS will also issue an annual report listing all employers cited for violations. Employers who have been found to have violated Chicago labor laws will be barred from bidding for city contracts for one year.

Nursing Moms Get More Break Time

The Illinois Nursing Mother in the Workplace Act was amended to eliminate the requirement that lactation breaks run concurrently to breaks already provided by an employer, to prohibit employers from reducing pay during lactation breaks, to require employers to now provide break time for mothers to nurse a baby; and provides that lactation breaks must be provided for up to one year after a child’s birth. The law exempts employers if breaks would pose an “undue hardship” as defined by the IHRA.

Military Service Members Get More Protections

The Illinois Service Employment Member Employment and Reemployment Acts (ISSERA) repealed a group of military service-related laws protecting Illinois employees who also perform active duty or reserve service and added a consolidated set of new obligations in their place. ISERRA incorporates and expands the protections of the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act of 1994 (USSERA). It covers a broader group of servicemen and women than USERRA. It sets forth specific requirements for performance evaluations of service members on military-related leave and creates new posting requirements, among other changes.

Illinois businesses should seek help from an employment lawyer to audit their employment practices and adjust policies to ensure compliance ahead of the next likely wave of employment laws expected from the incoming Pritzker administration.

Gary Savine is a Chicago employment lawyer and founder of Savine Employment Law, Ltd. Prior to starting his firm, Gary served as chief employment counsel to two publicly traded companies and practiced at one of Chicago’s largest employer-side law firms. In his practice, Gary provides a wide range of legal services to employers.