Happy New (Employment-Laws) Year!

For many, January 1 signifies a time for making New Year’s resolutions, setting goals and resetting benchmarks. This year, one thing is certain: when we enter the New Year, several new or amended employment laws will take effect for Illinois employers – and inevitably affect many individuals as well.  The 2017 changes starting either January 1 or July 1, as noted, are summarized for you here.

But before we ring in the new, let’s start with a reminder of the recently enacted law from the second half of 2016:

Illinois Child Bereavement Act

As of July 29, 2016, employees are entitled to two weeks of unpaid bereavement leave to attend the funeral or alternative to a funeral of a child, make arrangements necessitated by the death of the child or grieve the death of the child.  Bereavement leave must be completed within 60 days after the date on which the employee receives notice of the death of the child.  In the unfortunate event of the death of more than one child in a 12-month period, an employee is entitled to up to six weeks of bereavement leave during the 12-month period.

Once the New Year begins on Jan. 1, 2017, these new or amended laws will take effect:

Employee Sick Leave Act

Employees may use sick leave benefits for absences due to an illness, injury or medical appointment of the employee’s child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent on the same terms that the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.  If your company has a paid-time-off policy, you are likely all set.  If you have a separate sick leave policy, some language may need to be added to inform your employees of the expanded rights.

Illinois Freedom to Work Act

Prohibition on Non-Compete Agreements for Low-Wage Workers:  Employers can no longer enter into a non-compete agreement with a low-wage employee of the employer.  A low-wage employee is anyone who earns the greater of (1) the hourly rate equal to the federal, state or local minimum wage law or (2) $13.00 per hour.  Any such non-compete is illegal and void.

Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act

The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights provides new protections to domestic workers.  A domestic worker is anyone employed to perform any of the following tasks: housekeeping, house cleaning, home management, nanny services, caregiving for the elderly or persons with illness, injury or disability who require assistance, laundering, cooking, companion services, chauffeuring or other household services.

The Illinois Human Rights Act and the Minimum Wage Law now include domestic worker in their definitions of employee.  The Wages of Women and Minors Act now includes domestic work in its definition of occupation.  Also, the One Day Rest in Seven Act now provides for domestic workers to receive 24 consecutive hours of rest in every calendar week; that day should whenever possible coincide with the traditional day reserved by the worker for religious worship.

Personal Information Protection Act

We’ve all read about hackers obtaining credit card or other personal information from retailers or other entities.  Illinois is updating this act to, among other things, expand the definition of “personal information” and the steps that any “data collector” (such as retailers, financial institutions, government agencies, universities and corporations) that gathers or maintains such information from an Illinois resident must take if there has been a breach that compromises the security of the information.

Personal information includes nonpublic information such as a social security number, financial information (such as credit/debit card numbers, account numbers, passwords or other codes that provide access to an online account, including usernames, email addresses or security questions and answers), medical information, health insurance information and unique biometric data.

Also, along with providing contact information for consumer reporting agencies and the Federal Trade Commission, the notice will direct the Illinois resident to change his or her username or password and security question or answer (or to take other appropriate steps) to protect all online accounts for which the resident uses the same username or email address.

The Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act

Employers or prospective employers cannot request or require an employee or applicant to: 1) authenticate or access a personal online account in the presence of the employer; 2) invite the employer to join a group affiliated with any personal online account of the employee or applicant; or 3) join an online account established by the employer.  Employers also cannot take any adverse action toward an employee or refuse to hire an applicant for refusing to respond to prohibited inquiries.

However, the amendments do not prohibit an employer from compliance with applicable laws, investigating an allegation or placing restrictions on the use or access of a personal online account for business purposes or employer-provided devices during business hours (to the extent permissible under applicable laws such as the National Labor Relations Act).  Employers also are not prohibited from screening applicants or monitoring or retaining employee communications.

The Employee Leasing Company Act

Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Either a lessor or lessee may provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for leased employees under an employee leasing arrangement.  When the lessee provides workers’ compensation coverage for leased employees under an employee leasing arrangement, the lessor needs to notify the Department of Insurance to ensure proper and timely notification of coverage to the department.

A lessor that does not provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for leased employees of a lessee under an employee leasing arrangement shall not be subject to recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

Department of Employment Security Law

Employment of Women and Minorities: The Department of Employment Security (rather than the Department of Labor) will monitor the employment progress of women and minorities in the workforce and report to the General Assembly.

Illinois Wage Assignment Act

Employees will be able to revoke a wage assignment by filling out a Revocation Notice Form or writing a letter to the creditor stating he or she is revoking the wage assignment.

The Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act

The Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act provides leave for an employee who is or has a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence. The act expands coverage to any employer or person that employs at least one person. Before this amendment, coverage only included employers with at least 15 employees.  Now, if an employer has less than 14 employees, the employee is entitled to four weeks of leave. Employees working for employers with 14-49 employees are entitled to eight weeks of leave.  Employees working for employers with at least 50 employees are entitled to 12 weeks of leave.

The new and amended laws will keep coming in 2017, with these taking effect on July 1:

Cook County’s Earned Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

Employers in Cook County must provide paid sick leave to employees throughout Cook County.  Employees who work at least 80 hours within any 120-day period and a minimum of two hours in any two-week work period will earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.  Paid sick leave will be capped at 40 hours per 12-month period for each employee (unless the employer sets a higher limit) and employees can carryover up 20 hours into the next 12-month period.  Employees may use sick leave for the illness, injury or medical treatment of themselves or a family member or when the employer is closed due to a public health emergency.

Sick leave begins to accrue on the first calendar day after an employee begins working or on July 1, 2017, whichever date is later.  After six months of employment, an employee can begin using his or her sick leave.  Employers are under no obligation to pay out unused leave once an employee separates from the company.

Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance

The minimum wage for non-tipped employees in Chicago will increase to $11.00 per hour as of July 1. The minimum wage for tipped employees is presently $5.95 per hour but will increase with the Consumer Price Index as of July 1.  However, if the minimum hourly wage set by either the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or the Illinois Minimum Wage Law is greater than the Chicago ordinance’s minimum wage, then employers must pay the greater minimum wage rate.

Employers with tipped-employees must submit documentation establishing: (1) the amount the employee received as gratuities during the relevant pay period; and (2) that no part of that amount was returned to the employer.  All employers must post a notice at their business facility in Chicago and provide a form notice with the employees’ first paycheck advising the employee of: (i) Chicago’s minimum wage and (ii) the employee’s rights under the Wage Ordinance.

Human Trafficking Resource Center Notice Act

Certain employers will be required to post a human trafficking notice in a conspicuous place near the public entrance of the establishment or in another conspicuous location in clear view of the public and employees where similar notices are customarily posted.  These employers include retailers where the sale of alcoholic liquor is the primary business, adult entertainment facilities, primary airports, intercity passenger rail or light rail stations, bus stations, truck stops that include hotels and motels, emergency rooms with general acute care hospitals, urgent care centers, farm labor contractors and privately operated job recruitment centers.

The notice must be printed in English, Spanish and in one other language that is the most widely spoken language in the county where the business is located.  The Department of Human Services will make a model notice available for download on the department’s website.