Monday, December 29, 2014

Top Five Illinois Labor and Employment Legislative Initiatives for 2014

2014 witnessed significant expansion of protections for employees in Illinois. Here are our top five:

1. The Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) underwent two significant changes. One was the expansion of the IHRA’s prohibition against pregnancy discrimination. In large part mirroring the EEOC Guidance on this topic released earlier in the year, the IHRA amendments not only prohibit pregnancy discrimination but require covered Illinois employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Employers take note: Not only does the amendment include posting requirements, but employers should review their policies to ensure continued compliance. Read our blog post on this subject here.

2. The other significant amendment to the IHRA in 2014 was the inclusion of protections under that Act for interns. Not only did it expand coverage under the Act to interns, but also adopted the FLSA definition of intern, which will likely serve as the legal definition of an intern for wage and other claims in this state going forward. Read about intern legislation here.

3. For years we have been asked “can we make direct deposit mandatory for all of our employees?” While the answer is still “no”, the legislature has provided some relief to employers with legislation that allows payment of wages in the form of a payroll card. Much like a debit card, but with a few more restrictions, it helps employers avoid “live” checks from now on. For more information on payroll cards, see our blog post.

4. While not yet applicable to all Illinois employers, the trend to increase the minimum wage took firm hold this year. The initiative was led by President Obama when he enacted an increase for employees of federal contractors. Chicago Mayor Emmanuel took up the charge when he led the successful initiative in Chicago to introduce a gradual increase in minimum wage over the next several years. While fiscally conservative Governor-elect Rauner initially stated in his campaign that he was in favor of lowering the minimum wage in the State, he has since backed off of that opinion in public. Outgoing Governor Quinn and the State legislature may still have time to quickly pass an amendment to raise minimum pay, but in any event, the trend to an increase in wages in evident and employers will likely see more legislation on this in 2015.

5. While not applicable to public employers in Illinois, the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, enacted earlier this year, prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees from considering or requiring the disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record until: 1) it is determined the applicant is qualified for a position and 2) the applicant is selected for an interview. This legislation works in tandem with the IHRA which prohibits consideration of arrest records in hiring decisions as well as the recently released Guidance from the EEOC which strongly discourages consideration of criminal convictions in employment decisions except in the narrowest of case-by-case circumstances. Read more about this subject here.

Tomorrow we will list our top five most important case rulings for employers in 2014.