Happy New Year to our readers. The new year comes with new employment laws of which employers need to be aware. Here are the highlights:
Illinois Service Member Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (ISERRA) - The ISERRA incorporates the provisions of the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), thereby expanding the rights of employees who are members of the military in Illinois. Under this new law, employees who are serve in the military are not only entitled to leaves of absence for military service with the right of reinstatement and protection against workplace discrimination based of that service, but are also entitled to the following:
- Employees on military leave must be granted at least an average performance evaluation rating based on the three years preceding the military leave;
- Salary continuation during annual training service for up to 30 non-consecutive days per calendar year;
- Continued contributions to the employee’s group health insurance premium while the employee is on military leave.
- Posted notice of employee rights under ISERRA.
Employee Reimbursement for Business Expenses - We first reported on this new employer obligation in our October 22, 2018 Workplace Report post. Amendments to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, effective January 1, 2019, secure an employee’s entitlement to reimbursement for business expenses authorized by an employer. The amendment provides that an employer shall reimburse an employee for all “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee with the employee’s scope of employment and direction related to services performed for the employer.” Necessary expenditures are described as “all reasonable expenditures or losses required of the employee in the discharge of employment” that primarily benefit the employer. Losses do not include normal wear and tear of property, or that result from the employee’s negligence of due to theft unless caused by the employer’s negligence. The amendment requires an employee to submit an expense reimbursement request within 30 days after incurring the expense along with supporting documentation of the expense.
Equal Pay Protections for African-American Employees - An amendment to the Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003 (“IEPA”) expands the statute to cover pay discrimination between African-Americans and non-African-Americans. The IEPA now prohibits employers from paying African-Americans less than non-African-Americans who are performing “the same or substantially similar work.” Previously, the IEPA, like the federal Equal Pay Act only prohibited pay disparity based on gender.
New Government Office for Enforcing Chicago Employment Ordinances - Effective January 1, 2019, the Office of Labor Standards (“OLS”) is created to investigate and complaints and enforce the City of Chicago ordinances on minimum wage, paid sick time and anti-wage theft laws. Previously under the jurisdiction of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which is responsible for business licensing and enforcement of consumer fraud ordinances, complaints under these ordinances will likely be resolved quicker through this dedicated department.
New Laws Already in Effect from 2018
Some 2018 legislation impacting Illinois employers took effect immediately after signing by the Governor. They include the following:
Paid Breaks for Nursing Mothers - As we previously reported here, amendments to the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, expand benefits to nursing mothers in the first year after childbirth. While the Act has always secured the right of nursing mothers to take reasonable breaks to express milk or breast feed during their work day, the amended Act requires that these breaks now must be paid time.Additionally, while the original language of the Act provided that breaks for expressing milk or breast feeding must run concurrently with breaks already provided to the employee, the amended Act states that these breaks may run concurrently with other breaks in the work day, giving nursing mothers more flexibility for either breast feeding or expressing milk while they are at work.
NOTE: The amended Act only applies to employers with five or more employees and working mothers are only entitled to its benefits for one year after the birth of the child. (You can read the full article here).
Illinois Human Rights Act Amendments - As also reported in the October 22nd post, two important amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act both expand the time for filing a charge from 180 days to 300 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory action and allow employees to immediately request a right to bypass the Department of Human Rights (IDHR) investigation procedure in favor of filing suit in court. Expanding the time for aggrieved employees to file a charge with the IDHR from 180 days to 300 days creates a time limit consistent with the EEOC.
More importantly to employers, the amendments to the Act now require the IDHR to notify charging parties within 10 days of filing a charge of their right to opt out of the agency’s investigative process and file suit directly with the courts. Charging parties have 60 days to then make that opt out request. Designed to cut down on the backlog of cases and the general lengthy wait by claimants for decisions by the IDHR, the amendment may result in more lawsuits which can increase the cost of defense to employers. Ironically, the IDHR was first created to relieve the expected backlog of claims in the courts resulting from enactment of the Illinois Human Rights Act. (You can read the full article here).
Emergency Medical Services Employees Exempt from One Day of Rest Act - The One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that employers provide employees with at least one day off in a seven day period. Employees who work at least 7.5 continuous hours must be provided with a 20 minute meal break within 5 hours of starting a shift. The Act was amended to create an exception to these rules for emergency medical service employees who are required to be on call for 8-hour periods. Employers are still required to ensure EMS employees time to eat a meal at some point during their on-call period.
Employers should ensure that their policies and practices conform to these new laws. The labor and employment attorneys at Ancel Glink are available to assist employers in not only creating and revising policies that conform to current law, but we also advise and defend employer practices. Contact Margaret Kostopulos (tel: 312.604.9106, email: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Robert T. McCabe (tel: 847.856.5432, email: email@example.com) to discuss how we may assist you.