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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we will explain any recent employment law changes that have gone into effect in Illinois. This could be because of recent changes in Illinois or Federal statutes. With the advent of Covid-19, there are some protections for workers that businesses should be aware of to avoid liability and to protect their bottom lines.

We discuss the following changes to Illinois employment law, as of March 2021:

  • Changes to Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Laws
  • Illinois Increase in Minimum Wage
  • Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance
  • Am I Allowed Time Off Because of Covid-19?

Changes to Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Laws

Were you sued for sexual harassment or discrimination? If so, Employers who have had a charge of discrimination filed against them should be mindful of the July 1st, 2021 reporting deadline.

Starting July 1st, 2020 and going forward every year on July 1st, all employers who have an adverse judgment or administrative ruling against it in the preceding calendar year shall disclose annually to the Department of Human Rights (IDHR) the total number of orders against it, whether equitable relief was ordered, and the number of adverse judgments entered against the employer. An employer is any person employing one (1) or more employees, so all businesses within the state need to be mindful of this requirement. These disclosures do not cover any settlement agreements that employers enter into with employees once the process has started. However, IDHR may request the number of settlement agreements that the employer has entered into within the previous 5 years.

If an employer fails to make the required disclosures, IDHR will issue a notice to show cause giving the employer 30 days to disclose the required information. If the employer fails to show cause, the Department shall petition the Illinois Human Rights Commission for entry of an order imposing a civil (financial) penalty. The civil penalties for failure to report are based on the number of employees and are higher for larger employers. The penalties also increase based on the number of offenses. Specifically, for employers with fewer than 4 employees, the maximum penalty for a first offense is $500, a second offense is $1,000, and a third and subsequent offense is $3,000. For employers with 4 or more employees, the maximum penalty for a first offense is $1,000, a second offense is $3,000, and a third and subsequent offenses is $5,000.

Illinois Increase in Minimum Wage

Have you updated all of your employees’ wages? Starting January 1, 2021, the Illinois minimum wage is at least $11 per hour outside of Cook County, Illinois.

The minimum wage law was amended in 2019. These amendments went into effect on January 1st, 2020. During 2020, the minimum wage increased twice. It first increased to $9.25 per hour from January 1st to June 30th, 2020. It then increased to $10 per hour from July 1st until December 31st, 2020. Now, the minimum wage has been increased yet again to $11. However, this increase is now for the full year. Unless you’re an employer in Cook County, Illinois or Chicago, Illinois, the minimum wage is set for the remainder of the year. Starting January 1, 2022, the minimum wage will be $12 per hour. It will increase $1 per year until the state minimum wage reaches $15 by 2025.

Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance

Do you have employees in Chicago? Be mindful when issuing your weekly schedule. Employers in Chicago in several industries should keep the Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance in mind when issuing their new schedules

In July 1, 2020, the City of Chicago passed the fair workweek ordinance. Enforcement of this ordinance was delayed until January 1, 2021 due to the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic. The ordinance requires businesses in certain industries to provide employees with at least 10 days advance notice of their work schedules. The ordinance also mandates employers to compensate workers for last minute changes in scheduling. The ordinance also gives the employees the right to decline previously unscheduled work hours. This ordinance provides other rights to workers and employers should keep this ordinance in mind when scheduling workers. FAQ’s on the ordinance can be found here.  

Employees are covered by the ordinance if they work in one of seven “covered” industries (Building Services, Healthcare, Hotels, Manufacturing, Restaurants, Retail, and Warehouse Services), they make less than $26/hour or $50,000/year, and the employer has at least 100 employees globally (250 employees and 30 locations for a restaurant). 

Covered employees must go through the City’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) process before being able to sue. This right to sue could be provided to the worker regardless of the result of BACP’s investigation into the matter at hand. Employers in the covered industries might want to be mindful of the ordinance because a prevailing employee is entitled to compensatory damages, which include the costs of litigation, experienced witness fees, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The workers who feel aggrieved have a 2 year window from the date of the alleged misconduct to file a complaint.

Am I Allowed Time Off Because of Covid-19?

The Covid Vaccines are now here. What can an employer do if my employees need sick leave to take the vaccine, recover from side effects of the vaccine, or because they caught Covid-19?

In March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Emergency Sick Leave provisions. These provisions mandated that employers with less than 500 employees needed to provide paid sick leave to workers who either caught covid19, or were unable to find replacement childcare for their children due to covid19. This leave was for up to 12 paid weeks of sick leave due to the ongoing pandemic. In exchange for allowing these leave provisions, Congress provided for a tax credit to the employers who provided leave to their employees.

Even though providing this leave is now optional, Congress, in its American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, brought back the employer tax credit for those employers still willing to give their workers sick leave. This gives small and medium sized businesses the flexibility to continue weathering the pandemic. Even if the employer used up all 10 days from 04/01/2020 up until 03/31/2021, on 03/31/2021 the paid sick leave tax credits reset allowing the employers to be able to provide another 10 days of sick leave to their workers. The act provides that employers who substantially follow the FFCRA leave requirements may be able to claim up to 10 days of leave as a possible tax credit.  

If you have any questions concerning the above, call our office at (630) 324-6666 or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced employment lawyers today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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