July 5, 2020

Volume X, Number 187

July 03, 2020

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Illinois May Soon Require “Essential Employers” to Provide PPE for Workers

The Illinois House of Representatives recently introduced House Bill 5769, which would create the Illinois Personal Protective Equipment Responsibility Act (the “Act”).  The Act would require “essential employers” to provide personal protective equipment (“PPE”) to both employees and independent contractors.  The Act defines an “essential employer” as an employer engaged in an “essential business” as defined by a disaster proclamation issued pursuant to Illinois’s Emergency Management Act or any executive order issued in furtherance thereof.

At a minimum, essential employers would be required to provide face coverings and require that such coverings be worn “when maintaining a 6-foot social distance is not possible at all times.”  Id. at § 10(a).  Additional forms of PPE, including, but not limited to, gloves, safety glasses, safety face shields, shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, coveralls, vests, and full body suits, must be provided “when work circumstances require.”  H.B. 5769 §§ 5, 10(a), 101st Gen. Assemb. (2020). If signed into law, the Act’s requirements would become effective immediately, and would last until the expiration of the disaster proclamation or executive order(s) at issue.  Id. at §§ 10(e), 99.

Both “owners” and “operators” would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act, and both could be subject to joint and several liability for violations.  Id. at §§ 10(a), 15, 20.  “Owners” are defined as any “person or entity with legal ownership of the essential employer,” and the Act does not distinguish between majority owners or other forms shareholder arrangements.  Id. at § 5.   “Operators” are defined as any “person or entity that has operational or managerial control of the essential employer,” including “any officer, member, or partner” of the controlling person or entity.  Id. at § 5.

Aggrieved workers may recover trebled damages sustained as a result of a violation, as well as punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.  The Act would also authorize workers to seek injunctive relief, and would allow courts to “exercise all powers necessary” to remedy violations, including revoking or suspending an employer’s business license.

The Act is one to watch amongst of a series of employment-law related measures Illinois legislators have recently introduced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  These measures include:  a bill co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans which would delay the minimum wage increase currently set for July 1, 2020 until January 1, 2021 (S.B. 3988, introduced May 19, 2020); a bill providing employers tax credits for hiring Illinois residents to work in the fields of technology, health care, or manufacturing if those residents were unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (S.B. 3992, introduced May 20, 2020); and bills introduced by Republican legislators precluding unemployment benefits from being chargeable to employers where unemployment is directly or indirectly attributable to COVID-19 (S.B. 3986, introduced May 19, 2020) and limiting the civil liability of employers for acts that result in the transmission of COVID-19 (S.B. 3989, introduced May 19, 2020).

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume X, Number 148


About this Author

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

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....

Caralyn M. Olie Labor and Employment Attorney at Proskauer Law Firm

Caralyn Olie is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department.

Holly Ren Morris, Proskauer Law Firm, Chicago, Labor and Employment Law Attorney

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.

Edward C. Young, Proskauer Rose, Harassment Lawyer, Labor Rights Attorney

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.