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2019 Brings Employment Law Changes for Illinois Employers

As 2018 draws to a close, state and local lawmakers in Illinois have been passing legislation that will further regulate a variety of employers’ practices. Here is a look at what Illinois employers can expect in 2019.

New Laws Effective January 1, 2019

  • Employee Reimbursement for Business Expenses – An amendment to the Illinois Wage Payment Collection Act (“IWPCA”) will require employers to reimburse employees for “all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee within the employee’s scope of employment and directly related to services performed for the employer.” 820 ILCS § 115/9.5. “Necessary expenditures” is defined as “all reasonable expenditures or losses” the employee incurs in performing job duties and which primarily benefit the employer. However, employers are not required to reimburse for losses caused by employee negligence, normal wear or theft (unless the theft results from the employer’s negligence). Nor are employers required to reimburse unauthorized expenses, requests that fail to comply with written reimbursement policies, or costs exceeding employer-established expense caps. Employers may also limit the timeframe for submitting reimbursement requests, but employees must be allowed a minimum of 30 days to submit requests.
  • Additional Protections for Military Service Members – The Illinois Service Employment Member Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“ISERRA”) expands existing protections for Illinois employees who perform active or reserve military service. ISERRA incorporates protections under the federal Uniform Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act, and requires that employers: (i) post a conspicuous notice detailing employee rights under the statute; and (ii) average prior performance evaluation scores when evaluating an employee during periods of military-related absence. The required notice is available here.
  • Equal Pay Protections for African-American Employees – An amendment to Illinois’s Equal Pay Act of 2003 (“IEPA”) expands the statute to cover pay discrimination between African-Americans and non-African-Americans. The amendment will prohibit employers from paying African-Americans less than non-African-Americans who are performing “the same or substantially similar work.” (The IEPA previously was limited to ensuring equal pay between male and female employees.)
  • New Government Office for Enforcing Chicago Employment Ordinances – Beginning on January 1, 2019, Chicago will have a new agency tasked with enforcing the city’s employment ordinances: The Office of Labor Standards (“OLS”). The OLS will investigate and respond to employee complaints under the City’s minimum wage, paid sick time and anti-wage theft laws. These types of complaints were previously handled by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which is responsible for business licensing and enforcement of consumer fraud ordinances. It is likely that this change will result in an increased focus on enforcement of City employment ordinances.

New Laws Effective Immediately

  • Paid Breaks for Nursing Mothers – A recent amendment to the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act requires employers to provide paid breaks to nursing parents who need to express milk at work. While break time used to express milk may run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee, an employer cannot reduce an employee’s compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk or nursing. The amendment also requires employers to provide a “reasonable” break time each time the employee needs to express milk for one year after the child’s birth. An employer is required to provide these breaks unless it can demonstrate that doing so would create an undue hardship as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”).
  • Illinois Human Rights Act Amendments – On August 24, 2018, Governor Rauner signed a bill that made two notable amendments to the IHRA. First, the IHRA’s notice requirement has been updated to require Illinois employers to include in an employee handbook information concerning an employee’s rights under the IHRA, including the right to be free from unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment and the right to certain reasonable accommodations. Second, an individual who files a charge under the IHRA may now opt-out of the IDHR’s administrative investigation process and proceed directly to Illinois state court. To exercise this provision, the employee must send notice of his or her intent to opt out of the IDHR investigation within 10 days of filing a charge. Once the employee’s request is granted, he or she has 90 days to file suit in state court.
  • Emergency Medical Services Employees Exempt from One Day of Rest Act – Illinois’s One Day Rest In Seven Act (“ODRISA”) was amended, effective August 24, 2018, to exempt on-call employees of private companies licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (“EMS”) Systems Act.  ODRISA requires employers to provide employees with at least 1 day of rest in a 7-day period, and that employees who work at least 7.5 continuous hours be provided a 20-minute meal break no more than 5 hours after starting their shift. The recent amendment to ODRISA, however, provides an exemption to EMS employees who are required to be on call for 8-hour periods. Under the amendment, those employees must only be allowed to eat a meal at some point during the 8 hours they are on call.

Given these forthcoming and recently enacted changes, Illinois employers should review their workplace policies to ensure compliance with these updated requirements.

© 2019 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Steven J Pearlman, Labor Employment Law Firm, Proskauer Law firm
Partner

Steven Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group, resident in the Chicago office. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination and harassment, wage-and-hour laws and breaches of restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). He has successfully tried cases to verdict before judges and juries in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S....

312-962-3545
Edward C. Young, Proskauer Rose, Harassment Lawyer, Labor Rights Attorney
Associate

Edward C. Young is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. He represents companies nationwide in a broad range of employment issues, including discrimination, retaliation and harassment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, as well as other federal and state employment statutes and various common law torts. In addition, Eddie represents employers in trade secret matters and challenges to the independent contractor status of workers.

Prior to attending law school, Eddie earned his master’s degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from Loyola University while working for more than three years in the corporate human resources department of a national professional services firm. Eddie also served as a Coles Fellow with the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Eddie is a co-author of “Discrimination Law Basics,” which was presented at the Practicing Law Institute’s Understanding Employment Law Conference in 2014. 

312-962-3595
Holly Ren Morris, Proskauer Law Firm, Chicago, Labor and Employment Law Attorney
Associate

Holly “Ren” Morris is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Their practice focuses on defending companies in all aspects of employment litigation.

Ren earned their J.D. from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, where they worked for the Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions, served on the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and assisted in death eligible murder cases for the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense.

312-962-3556