Happy New Year: 2014 Changes to Illinois Law

Along with the New Year come a number of changes to Illinois law that are certain to impact employers. The following changes took effect January 1, 2014:

Social Media. The Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, which was amended effective January 1, 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring employees to disclose usernames and passwords for social media accounts, was further amended effective January 1, 2014 to provide an exception that allows employers such access when the account information relates to a professional, rather than personal, account and the employer has a duty, such as under insurance or securities laws, to screen applicants or employees. Notably, in order to be considered a “personal” account, the social media account must be used exclusively for personal communications unrelated to any business purpose of the employer.

Employee Classification. The Employee Classification Act, passed in 2008 to prevent the misclassification of construction industry employees and independent contractors, was amended to incorporate two changes. First, the Act now includes reporting requirements providing that any contractors who employ persons to perform construction services but do not classify the person as an employee must report to the Department of Labor by January 31st following the taxable year in which the person was compensated. Second, the Act now exposes individuals engaged in construction activities and corporate officers of construction employers to personal liability for knowingly violating the Act. The Act gives employers 28 calendar days to respond to Department of Labor findings of a violation, and the failure to respond will render the allegations admitted as true.

Prevailing Wages. The Prevailing Wage Act was amended to incorporate two changes. First the Act was amended to require public works contractors to record each worker’s gross and net pay, each worker’s starting and ending times for each day, each worker’s hourly wage rate, hourly overtime rate, fringe benefit rate, and retain these records for at least three years from the date of the last payment on a contract. Furthermore, public works employers will also need to file a certified payroll no later than the 15th day of each calendar month for the preceding month with the public body in charge of the project. Finally, the Act was amended to eliminate the requirement that prevailing wage reports must be filed with both the Secretary of State and the Illinois Department of Labor. Now, employers must only file reports with the Department of Labor.

Illinois Department of Employment Security. The Illinois Legislature passed a bill authorizing the Illinois Department of Employment Security to promulgate regulations mandating electronic payment of unemployment contributions, payments, penalties, or interest. The bill also increases penalties for employers who violate certain provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act.

Workplace Violence. The Illinois Legislature passed a new Act entitled the Workplace Violence Prevention Act. This Act allows employers to obtain an order of protection to prohibit further violence or threats of violence if an employee has suffered unlawful violence or the threat of violence and the act or threatened act can reasonably be construed to be carried out at the employee’s place of work.