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Illinois Expands State Human Rights Act to Include Employers with One or More Employees

An amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) expands the definition of “employer” from employers with at least 15 employees to those with one or more employees.

The legislation, House Bill 252, was signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker on August 21, 2019, and enacted as Illinois Public Act 101-0430. The new law will become effective on July 1, 2020.

Previously, the IHRA only applied to businesses with 15 or more employees, except in cases of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and disability discrimination, where the definition is one or more employees. The IHRA also prohibits a “person,” a term that can include employers with fewer than 15 employees, from retaliating against individuals who file sexual harassment or discrimination charges. That provision of the IHRA was not amended.

The new definition of “employer” means that small businesses in Illinois may be subject to race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and age discrimination claims and other claims that currently may be brought only against employers with 15 or more employees. Larger, multistate businesses that employ one or more Illinois workers also become Illinois employers covered by the new definition.

Employers included in the expanded definition of “employer” may need to review their personnel procedures, employee handbooks, and training materials to ensure they comply with the IHRA.

Smaller employers also should be aware that after July 1, 2020, they will be subject to many of the new obligations imposed by Public Act 101-0221 (P.A. 101-0221), formerly known as Senate Bill 75, including the Workplace Transparency Act and significant amendments to the IHRA. For more information regarding P.A. 101-0221, see our article, Illinois Enacts Workplace Harassment Law, Creating New and Expanded Obligations for Employers.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020

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About this Author

Patrick Rocks, Labor Attorney, Jackson Lewis Law Firm
Principal

Patrick Rocks is a Principal in the Chicago, Illinois, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He served as the General Counsel to the Chicago Board of Education, the third largest school district in the country, from 2005 to 2012.

During his tenure at the Chicago Board of Education, Mr. Rocks counseled and represented the Board and its senior management in a wide range of matters. He also managed the Board’s Department of Law which includes 45 attorneys and the Board’s risk management, records retention, internal investigations and insurance programs.

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Julia Argentieri Employment Attorney Jackson Lewis
Associate

Julia P. Argentieri is an Associate in the Chicago, Illinois, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on representing employers in a broad range of workplace law matters, including both counseling as well as litigation. Ms. Argentieri has significant experience with training and counseling as well as defending administrative charges before the EEOC and IDHR, and handling all phases of litigation at the state and federal level.

During law school, Ms. Argentieri was an editor for the Elder Law Journal at the University of Illinois College of Law and also participated in a Domestic Violence legal aid clinic. Ms. Argentieri also worked as an intern during law school handling mediations at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and served as a judicial extern for the Honorable Rebecca Pallmeyer in the Northern District Court of Illinois.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Ms. Argentieri spent several years as an in-house employment attorney for a large non-profit in the Chicago area.

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