2019 Illinois Labor Law Update

The following are new labor laws in Illinois and how you can best prepare for them. These are effective January 1, 2019 unless noted:

Law- 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” are all reasonable expenditures or losses the employee incurs in performing job duties and which primarily benefit the employer. Employers are not, however, 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 must be allow at least 30 days to submit requests.

How to Prepare

Review and update expense reimbursement policies, including travel, training, and equipment policies, as needed. Ensure that work-related expenses are reimbursed. For instance, consider work-related mileage (excluding regular commute), training and conference fees, as well as cell phone and home office expenses for reimbursement.

Law- 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 (“USERRA”), 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.

How to Prepare

Post the required notice, which is available here: ISERRA Notice

Review and update military leave and service policies as needed.

Law- Equal Pay Protections for African American Employees

An amendment to Illinois’s Equal Pay Act (“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 was previously limited to ensuring equal pay between male and female employees.)

How to Prepare

Employers should ensure their employees’ compensation is consistent with neutral, nondiscriminatory wage structures. Additionally, because phrases such as “substantially similar work” and “similar working conditions” are broad and undefined, employers should ensure that each position’s duties are sufficiently detailed in company job descriptions. Overbroad job descriptions may be used to support pay equity claims under the Act.

Law- 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.

How to Prepare

Employers should evaluate their compliance with Chicago city ordinances and remain alert for any proposed or recently enacted legislation.

Law- Paid Breaks for Nursing Mothers

Governor Rauner signed a bill on August 21, 2018 that amends the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act. The new law requires employers of more than five employees 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 break time already provided to the employee, an employer cannot reduce an employee’s compensation for time used to express milk or nurse. 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”).

How to Prepare

Employers should update lactation or nursing break policies to reflect that any reasonable break time to express milk, in addition to already provided breaks, will be provided and paid.

Law- 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 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.

How to Prepare

Post the notice issued by IDHR and update employee handbook to include the same content about employee rights to be free from unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment. The new notice is available here: “You Have the Right to Be Free From Job Discrimination and Sexual Harassment.”

Review discrimination and harassment policies to ensure that they are compliant with the updated requirements.

LawEmergency 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.

How to Prepare

Review relevant workplace policies to ensure compliance with these updated requirements.