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May 2022: Chicago City Council Pass Amendments to Sexual Harassment Laws

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the city of Chicago, Illinois

What happened?
On April 27, 2022, the Chicago City Council passed an amendment to the city’s sexual harassment laws that expands the definition of sexual harassment, increases training requirements for employees and managers, adds a new requirement for employers to establish a written policy on sexual harassment, and applies stricter penalties for violations.

What are the details?
Effective July 1, 2022, all employers must have a written policy on sexual harassment including: 

  1. A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago
  2. The definition of sexual harassment (as defined by the ordinance) 
  3. A requirement that all employees participate in sexual harassment prevention training annually
  4. Examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment 
  5. Details on reporting and legal services 
  6. A statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago

The training requirement states that “employees shall participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually.” Managers and supervisors have a heightened requirement to participate in “a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually.”

In addition to sexual harassment prevention training, “all employees must participate in one hour of bystander training annually.” Bystander intervention training teaches strategies on how onlookers can involve themselves both directly and indirectly into harassment incidents to help those being targeted. 

The Commission on Human Rights, which monitors and enforces the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, provides guidance on their website for training, policy, and notice requirements that employers must have prepared by July 1, 2022. 

Fines for violations of the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance have increased significantly, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per violation, paid to the city. Other penalties include damages and attorney’s fees paid to the complaining party. The city may also enjoin employers to take specific actions to eliminate discriminatory practices. Finally, a finding of sexual harassment or other discrimination may affect the continued licensure of a business in the city of Chicago.

For more information, please see the links below:

Illinois Human Rights Act

Chicago Commission on Human Relations Guidance

Sexual Harassment in Employment

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, make changes to their sexual harassment policies, and provide additional training to their employees to be in compliance with the amended law.

April 2022: Illinois Senate Passes Amendment to the CROWN Act

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of Illinois.

What happened?
On April 9, 2022, the Illinois Senate passed House Amendment No. 1 to Senate Bill 3616 (SB 3616), joining the Illinois House in unanimously passing legislation, “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act” (the CROWN Act).

What are the details?
On August 13, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed into law a version of a CROWN Act which, due to various amendments, ended up only applying to schools and not places of employment, despite the “CROWN” acronym referencing a respectful and open “workplace.”

The original version of SB 3616 would have added the new definition of “race” under the definition of “Unlawful Discrimination” found in the General Definitions section of the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), but specifically limited to use in Article 2 of the IHRA relating to employment.

In the House amendment, the definition of “race” stands on its own in the General Definitions section, which means that it also applies to all other areas of the IHRA that prohibit discrimination, including, among other areas, housing, public accommodation, and real estate transactions.

It is expected that Governor Pritzker will sign the bill into law. Assuming this to be the case, the CROWN Act creates a definition of “race” under the IHRA to include “traits associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.”For more information, please see the links below:

Senate Bill 3616

Amendment 1

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and should be wary of how they outline their grooming guidelines when it comes to hairstyles.

February 2022: Illinois Equal Pay Obligations

Update Applicable to:
All employers with more than 100 employees in the state of Illinois

What happened?
On January 25, 2022, the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) sent out additional communications regarding the upcoming Illinois Equal Pay Registration Certificate (EPRC) obligations. 

What are the details?
On March 23, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law amendments to the Illinois Equal Pay Act (the Act) and other laws.  Those amendments required covered employers to obtain an EPRC every two years and include EEO-1-type diversity data in an annual report to the Illinois Secretary of State.

The Act was further amended on June 25, 2021. Per the second set of amendments, covered employers that were authorized to transact business in Illinois as of March 23, 2021, must submit an EPRC application to the IDOL between March 24, 2022, and March 23, 2024.  Those employers so authorized only after March 23, 2021, must submit an EPRC application within three years of commencing business operations but not before January 1, 2024. 

Of note, the amendments direct the IDOL to assign employers a deadline by which to submit their application, meaning that a covered employer may be required to submit on the earliest date provided above for its business, depending on when it was first authorized to transact business in Illinois.
The most recent amendments further expand on the information employers must submit with their EPRC applications.  At the outset, employers must submit:

  • A copy of their most recently filed EEO-1 report; and
  • a list of all employees employed during the past calendar year (separated by gender, race, and ethnicity), each employee’s start date, the total wages paid to each employee during the past calendar year, and any additional information deemed necessary by the IDOL to determine if pay equity exists.  Notably, “wages” include any pay owed to an employee pursuant to an employment contract or agreement and can include salaries, bonuses, and commissions.  

Covered employers must also submit a signed statement certifying that the employer is in compliance with the Act and other relevant anti-discrimination laws, and that:

  • the average compensation for female and minority employees is not consistently below the average compensation for male and non-minority employees within each of the major EEO-1 job categories for which the employee is expected to perform work;
  • employees of one sex are not restricted to certain job classifications; 
  • retention and promotion decisions are made absent consideration of sex; 
  • the employer corrects wage and benefit disparities when identified; 
  • the frequency of which wages and benefits are evaluated; and
  • the approach the employer takes when evaluating the wages and benefits that will be paid.

Failure to obtain an EPRC as required may result in a penalty of up to $10,000, although employers have up to 30 days to submit a revised EPRC application if their application is found to be deficient and may appeal the IDOL’s deficiency findings.  

For more information, please see the links below:

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, evaluate their pay practices, and remedy any pay inequities before their EPRC applications are due.

Chicago Will Require Proof of Vaccination to Enter Most Public Establishments

Update Applicable to:
All employers of businesses with public accommodations in the city of Chicago and Cook County, Illinois.

What happened?
On December 21, 2021, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued Public Health Order 2021-2, a vaccine mandate for certain public accommodations in the city of Chicago, and on December 23, 2021, Cook County announced will be joining them per their Public Health Order 2021-11.

What are the details?
Effective January 3, 2022, any individual five years of age or older in Chicago and Cook County will be required to show proof of full vaccination to dine indoors, visit gyms, or enjoy entertainment venues where food or drink is being served. The requirement exempts children under five years old and individuals entering an establishment for less than 10 minutes for the purpose of ordering and carrying out food, making a delivery, or using the bathroom. This public health order will remain in effect until the risk of overwhelming the city’s hospital capacity has passed.

Proof of full vaccination will be required to enter the following establishments:

  • Any establishment where food and beverages are served, including restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, dining areas of grocery stores, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls, and hotel ballrooms.
  • Gyms and fitness establishments, including gyms, recreation facilities, fitness centers, yoga, Pilates, cycling, barre, and dance studios, hotel gyms, boxing and kickboxing gyms, fitness bootcamps, and facilities that provide indoor group fitness classes.
  • Indoor entertainment and recreation venues where food or beverages are served, including movie theaters, music and concert venues, live performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, play areas, pool and billiard halls, and other recreational game centers.

For more information, please see the links below:

Public Health Order 2021-2

Public Health Order 2021-11

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and make immediate changes to their vaccination policies for both employees and patrons to be in compliance with the new mandate.

September 2021: Illinois Amends Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Illinois.

What happened?
On August 20, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed HB 3582 into law, which amended the Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA).

What are the details?
The law, effective immediately, amends VESSA to allow employees to take leave if they or a covered family or household member is a victim of any crime of violence.

The amendment also expands the definition of “family or household member” to include a party to a civil union, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or any other person related by blood or by present or prior marriage or civil union, or any other person who shares a relationship through a child, or any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship as determined by the employee. Spouses and parents, as well as persons jointly residing in the same household, continue to be covered under the statute.

The law can be found and read here.

An article on the law can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the law and the amendments it brings to VESSA and update their leave policies to stay in compliance with the additional coverage from the amendments.

 

September 2021: Illinois Enacts New Non-Compete Bill

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Illinois.

What happened?
On August 13, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed SB 672 into law.

What are the details?
The law, effective January 1, 2022, makes changes to how and when employers can use restrictive covenants with Illinois Employees.

Some of the key information on the law’s changes are:

  • Prohibits the use of non-compete agreements with employees paid less than $75,000 per year.
  • Prohibits non-solicitation agreements for employees paid less than $45,000 per year.
  • Requires employers to provide employees “at least two years or more of continued employment” as consideration for signing a restrictive covenant, if at-will employment alone is the consideration for the agreement.
  • The law also requires employers to advise employees in writing to seek attorney consultation and provide at least 14 calendar days to review the agreement before signing.

The law can be found and read here.

An article detailing the law can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the law and their current restrictive covenant agreements and make any applicable changes to be in compliance once the law is effective.

August 2021 Illinois HR Legal Updates

Illinois Enacts Pay Data Collection Law

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Illinois.

What happened?
On March 23, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed SB 1480 into law which amends the Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003.

What are the details?
The Law will require employers with more than 100 employees in the state to begin reporting pay data starting January 1, 2023, while also acquiring an equal pay registration certificate by March 24, 2024.

Employers covered under the amendment must pay a $150 filing fee and submit the following information with their application for certification to the Department of Labor:

  • Equal pay compliance statement signed by a corporate officer, legal counsel, or authorized agent of the company.
  • Confirmation that the business does not restrict certain roles to genders and makes employment decisions without regarding gender.
  • Explanation of how the business reviews wages and benefits to identify disparities and how the business corrects such disparities.
  • Explanation of the system the business uses to determine compensation for employees.
  • Most recent federal EEO-1 report (if applicable).
  • List of employees separated by gender and race/ethnicity categories and the total wages paid to each employee.

Another component that employers in Illinois will be required to obtain is a certification by signing a compliance statement that confirms the following:

  • The business’ compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Equal Wage Act, and the Equal Pay Act of 2003.
  • The average compensation for female and minority employees is not consistently below the average compensation (as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor) for male and non-minority employees within each EEO-1 major job category. Employers must consider length of service, requirements of specific jobs, experience, skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions of the job, or other mitigating factors.
  • The business does not restrict employees of one sex to certain job classifications and makes retention and promotion decisions without regard to sex.
  • Wage and benefit disparities are corrected when identified to ensure compliance with the state and federal antidiscrimination laws.
  • How often the business evaluates wages and benefits to ensure compliance with state and federal antidiscrimination laws.
  • Whether the business, in setting compensation and benefits, uses a market pricing approach; state prevailing wage or union contract requirements; a performance pay system; an internal analysis; or an alternative approach and a description of the alternative approach.

The law can be read here.

An article on the law is found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should access the law here to review and update their policies on pay and pay data collection to be in compliance with the law when it becomes active.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Illinois Enacts Bill to Make Work Authorization Status Discrimination a Civil Rights Violation

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Illinois.

What happened?
On August 2, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 0121 (HB 0121) into law and adds a provision to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA)

What are the details?
Effective immediately, the bill adds a provision to the IHRA to make discrimination against employees and job applicants based on their work authorization status a civil rights violation. Under the bill work authorization status is defined as the status of being a person born outside of the United States, and not a U.S. citizen, who is authorized by the federal government to work in the United States.

The bill can be read here.

An article on the Bill can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the law to ensure they stay in compliance with the addition to the IHRA.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Illinois Equal Pay Act Requirements Expanded in Amendment

Update Applicable to:
Employers in Illinois with more than 100 employees.

What happened?
On June 25, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed SB 1847 into law, amending the Illinois Equal Pay Act.

What are the details?
The bill makes amendments to the Illinois Equal Pay Act (IEPA) to add additional requirements to Employers and will be active when the IEPA becomes effective in March 2024. Employers with more than 100 employees will now be required to:

  • Pay a $150 filing fee.
  • Submit a signed statement that the business complies with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Equal Wage Act, and the Equal Pay Act of 2003 (the “Statutes”).
  • For businesses required to file an EEO-1 with the EEOC, submitting a copy of the business’s most recently filed EEO-1.
  • Compile and submit a list of all employees during the past calendar year (from records maintained and available), separated by gender and race and ethnicity categories reported in the business’s most recently filed EEO-1, as well as report the total wages paid to each employee during the past calendar year, rounded to the nearest hundred dollars.

The amendments also retain clarity on that the compliance statement must contain the following information that certifies:

  • The average compensation for its female and minority employees is not consistently below the average compensation, as determined by the rule by the IL DOL, for its male and non-minority employees within each job category listed in the business’s EEO-1.
  • The business does not restrict employees of one sex to certain job classifications and makes retention and promotion decisions without regard to sex.
  • Wage and benefit disparities are corrected when identified to ensure compliance with the statutes.
  • The business evaluates its wages and benefits for equality and describes how often wages and benefits are evaluated to ensure compliance with the statutes.

The bill can be read here.

An article on the bill can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the amendments made to the new bill in order to stay in compliance and prepare for when the bill becomes active in March 2024. The law firm, Foley & Lardner LLP, suggests that Illinois employers should start tracking and evaluating this data in preparation for reporting in the not-so-distant future. Any pay inequity issues should be addressed and remedied.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Illinois Expands the Secure Choice Mandatory Retirement Savings Program.

Update Applicable to:
Employers in Illinois with at least five employees.

What happened?
On July 30, 2021, Governor Pritzker passed HB0117 into law, amending the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program.

What are the details?
The law makes amendments to Illinois Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, including:

  • The 25-employee threshold is reduced to five employees. Now, the program will apply to employers with at least five employees in the state during every quarter of the previous calendar year. The employer determines the total employee count using the annual average from the employer-reported quarterly data.
  • Secure Choice now includes annual, automatic increases to the contribution rates up to a maximum of 10% of an enrollee’s wages. The Illinois Department of Revenue will establish a schedule for the automatic increase.
  • The changes clarify that the second year of non-compliance need not be consecutive for applying the $500 non-compliance penalty.
  • Employers now have 120 days (rather than 90 days) after issuance of a notice of proposed penalty assessment for non-compliance to file a protest with the department or come into full compliance.
  • The changes allow providing notices electronically rather than only by first class mail.

The current enrollment deadline for the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program is in two waves depending on the number of employees an employer has: 

  • Wave 1: The enrollment deadline for employers with fewer than 25 employees and more than 15 employees will be no sooner than September 1, 2022
  • Wave 2: The enrollment deadline for employers with at least five employees but not more than 15 employees will be no sooner than September 1, 2023.

The law can be read here.

An article on the law can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the law and the amendments it brings to the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program and the eligibility of employers to enroll to stay in compliance with the program.

July 2021 Illinois HR Legal Updates

Illinois Increases Wage and Hour Violation Penalties

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Illinois.

What happened?
On July 9, 2021, Governor J. B. Pritzker signed House Bill 0118 (HB0118) into law.

What are the details?
The bill, effective immediately, amends the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act to increase the penalty for underpaying wages from the original 2% per month to 5% per month.

The law amending the act is read here.

An article on the amendment is read here.

What do employers need to do?
No action is required for employers other than being aware of the update in penalty amount.

July 2021: Chicago Implements New Wage Theft Protections and Amends Paid Sick Leave with Ordinance

Update Applicable to:
Employers in Chicago.

What happened?
On June 25, 2021, Chicago City Council passed Ordinance No. O201-2182 into law.

What are the details?
The ordinance, effective August 1, 2021, establishes wage theft protections for employees as well as, modifying and expanding several reasons that are covered for the use of Chicago Paid Sick Leave (CPSL).

An employer is now liable for wage theft when they fail to timely pay a covered employee. It includes non-payment of any wages required for work performed and paid time off (including Chicago paid sick leave (CPSL)) and any contractually required benefits.

The employers may be held liable for any underpayments and damages of either:

  • 2% of the amount of any underpayments for each month following the date of payment during which such underpayments remain unpaid; or
  • the amount specified by the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, if the amount in the state law is greater.

Employers should be aware that these penalties are in addition to penalties for any failure to comply with the CPSL obligations as well.

The ordinance lists several new and modified reasons that are covered under the CPSL. Some of the included modified or new reasons are as follows:

  • Modified Reason. The employee is ill or injured, or for the purpose of receiving processional care, including preventive care, diagnosis, or treatment, for medical, mental, or behavioral issues, including substance abuse disorders.
  • Modified Reason. The employee needs to care for a family member whose school, class, or place of care has been closed
  • New Reason. An employee obeys an order issued by the mayor, the governor of Illinois, the Chicago Department of Public Health, or a treating healthcare provider, requiring the employee: to stay at home to minimize the transmission of a communicable disease, to remain at home while experiencing symptoms or sick with a communicable disease, to obey a quarantine order issued to the employee, or to obey an isolation order issued to the employee.

The CPSL ordinance requires a workplace posting and indicates the posting must also address the employee’s ability to seek remedy for wage theft. Employers are required to distribute a new notice to their employees by the end of July. With the first paycheck issued to a Covered Employee, and annually with a paycheck issued within 30 days of July 1st, every Employer shall provide a notice advising the Covered Employee of the current minimum Wages under this chapter, the Covered Employee’s right to Paid Sick Leave, and information about human trafficking and resources to help combat it. The Commissioner has prepared the required notice that can be found here.

The ordinance can be read here.

An article on the ordinance is found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the Ordinance and information above to ensure they follow the obligations to stay in compliance with wage payments and CPSL. The law firm, Littler Mendelson P.C., recommends employers revisit their paid sick leave policies in Chicago to ensure compliance with these new requirements. Employers will need to distribute the notice mentioned above by the end of the month to their employees.

June 2021 Illinois HR Legal Updates

Cook County Suspends Minimum Wage Hike

Update Applicable to:
Employers operating in the unincorporated areas of Cook County.

What happened?
Officials in Cook County have postponed the originally planned minimum wage increase that would have gone into effect July 1, 2021.

What are the details?
In response to the high unemployment level inside Cook County, officials have suspended this year’s minimum wage increase, per the Minimum Wage Ordinance. For the minimum wage increase to be suspended the unemployment rate needs to be higher than 8.5%, which was met in the previous year.

The official announcement may be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers will not need to take any action in response to this update.

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