Chicago Enacts COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Measures
On May 20, 2020, a new ordinance was signed into law increasing protections for employees who are impacted directly or indirectly by COVID-19.
What are the details?
The ordinance creates new protections for “Covered Employees,” who are following orders issued by the mayor of the City of Chicago. These protections include prohibiting the demotion and termination of these “Covered Employees.” A “Covered Employee” is defined generally as, an employee who, in any two-week period, performs at least two hours of work for an employer while physically present within the geographic boundaries of the City of Chicago. Covered employees may be following any of the following orders:
- Staying at home to minimize the transmission of COVID-19
- Remaining at home while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or while sick with COVID-19
- A quarantine order issued to the Covered Employee
- An isolation order issued to the Covered Employee
- An order issued by the Commissioner of Health regarding the duties of hospitals and other congregate facilities
These protections extend to a covered employee who is caring for an individual who is following the first three of the listed orders. Additionally, as of July 1, 2020, outside salespersons and some students will be considered Covered Employees as well.
The ordinance also creates new ways for the City of Chicago to enforce these protections. An administrative of court action can be brought against employers who are noncompliant with the law. Even if the City itself does not pursue the employer, employees will be able to bring the case forward in court as well. Employers who are noncompliant have a 30-day period after they have been notified of a violation to fix the behavior without being liable for damages. Otherwise, the employees will be able to seek the following damages:
- Reinstatement to the same or equivalent position
- Monetary damages equal to three times the lost wages
- Actual damages
- Attorney fees and costs
For a more detailed breakdown of the ordinance: Read Here
What do employers need to do?
Employers in Chicago should immediately update their workplace policies to prevent any violations of the Covered Employee’s protections. Should it become necessary to terminate a Covered Employee the employer needs to be able to provide documentation to show its necessity.
Summary of State Laws (Q1 & Q2 2020)
Sexual Harassment Training
The Illinois Department of Human Rights has provided clarity on sexual harassment training requirements in the guidance issued on January 31, 2020. The guidance includes clarifications, such as:
- Employers must train all employees in Illinois, including short-term and part-time employees and interns.
- Employers are not required to train independent contractors but are strongly advised to train independent contractors who work on-site at the employer’s workplace or interact with the employer’s staff.
- Employees who perform work or regularly interact with the employer’s employees in Illinois should be trained, even if they are based in another state.
Human Trafficking Training for Lodging Establishments
Effective June 1, 2020, hotels, motels, and casino hotels must provide certain employees with training on the recognition of human trafficking and protocols for reporting observed human trafficking to the appropriate authorities. An employer may develop its own training program or use that of a third party that includes the minimum requirements. In addition, the Department of Human Services is expected to develop a training program for use by employers by July 1, 2020.
School Activities Leave
Effective August 1, 2020, Illinois’ School Visitation Rights Act (SVRA) is amended to cover behavioral meetings or academic meetings (previously classroom activities) and prohibit employers from terminating an employee because of an absence that is due solely to a reason protected by the SVRA.
Chicago Paid Sick Leave
Effective July 1, 2020, Chicago’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance applies to all employers with at least one covered employee, regardless of whether the employer maintains a business facility in Chicago or is subject to any Chicago business license requirements (as previously required). In addition, individuals excluded from coverage include outside salespersons, members of a religious corporation or organization, certain students, motor carriers, and certain camp counselors.
Chicago Predictive Scheduling
Effective July 1, 2020, the Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance requires certain employers in building services, healthcare (effective January 1, 2021, for safety-net hospitals), hotels, manufacturing, restaurants, retail, and warehouse services to provide covered employees at least 10 days’ notice of their work schedules and predictability pay for certain changes to the schedule.
For additional information regarding this Chicago ordinance, please refer to this firm’s legal update. Please note that recent amendments to this ordinance allow for certain exceptions during a pandemic (including the COVID-19 pandemic).