Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Illinois Legislature Introduces New Employment Laws

It didn’t take the State legislature too long after reconvening last week to introduce new employment laws, including extending benefits for COVID-19 related illnesses. Below are some of interest:

Extension of Paid Disability Leave for Line-of-Duty Public Employees

Passed in House Floor Amendment #3 on May 22, 2020, SB 0471 now includes a 60-day temporary extension of the Illinois’ Paid Employee Disability Leave Act’s benefits for eligible employees injured in the line-of-duty who are hindered from physical recovery within the one-year period provided to recover.

Eligible employees include full-time law enforcement officers, firefighters, and paramedics employed by the State, any unit of local government (including home rule units with populations less than 1,000,000), any State-supported college or university, or any other public entity granted the power to employ persons for such purposes by law.

Employees may seek benefits under the law if a disability occurs, directly or indirectly, because of COVID-19 between the dates of March 9, 2020 to December 31, 2020. If an employee requests the additional 60-day suspension, employers shall continue to pay the employee at the same rate the employee was paid before the injury. Further, the employer may request proof of the circumstances hindering the employee’s physical recovery.

Healthy Workplace Act

SB 0471 also creates the Illinois Healthy Workplace Act (HWA). The HWA provides a minimum time-off standard of five paid sick days (40 hours), or the pro-rata number of sick days/hours, within 12 months for all workers. Upon oral request, an employee may request this time for the following reasons:
  • Care for their health;
  • Care for the health of a family member;
  • Attend a medical appointment for themselves or a family member;
  • Care for a child out of school or a place of care; 
  • Care for themselves or their family member as a result of domestic violence; or 
  • Absent from work to visit family in jail or prison, or family member’s appointment for court sentencing, probation, conditional discharge, parole, or mandatory supervised release.

Employees must work at least six months and accrue hours at a rate of one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked. Paid sick days are carried over annually; however, an employer may prohibit the use of more than 40 hours of sick time. Employees must be paid their regular rate of pay for sick days. When using sick days, tipped employees will be paid at the rate of the current Illinois Minimum Wage.

If foreseeable, an employee must provide at least a seven-day notice before taking the sick days. Paid sick time is not reimbursable upon an employee’s departure from their employer, and these rights do not interfere with collective bargaining rights.

The definition of employer includes the State of Illinois and units of local government. The definition of employer, however, does not include school districts organized under the school district code, or park districts organized under the park district code.

Employers do not need to modify existing sick day policies if they already comply with the HWA. Employers may require a certification (documentation with a healthcare provider’s signature) of a qualifying illness when an employee uses more than three consecutive sick days. For purposes of showing domestic violence, an employer must consider the following documents: police report, court document, signed statement from an attorney, clergy member, or victim services advocate.

Employers may not impede employee use of sick time in the absence of certification and cannot delay payment owed to an employee of such leave. Employers must refrain from retaliating against employees for the use of the right of paid sick time. Employers must keep all records of paid sick time for at least three years and allow inspection by the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL).

Employees whose rights have been violated under the law may file claims against their employer with the IDOL. An employee must file a claim first before engaging in litigation. Employers are liable for compensatory damages with interest at the prevailing rate, punitive damages, and other equitable costs and fees. Willful violations of the law are subject to $2,500 fines per offense. The bill is effective upon passage.