In this article, we will explain changes to Illinois employment laws for 2019. Some of these laws became effective on January 1, 2019, while others went into effect midway through 2018. We will provide a high-level summary of changes that impact pay discrimination against African Americans, protection to military service members, employee reimbursement, protections for nursing mothers, deadlines and procedures for filing charges for violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act, and changes to the rights of emergency medical service employees under the One Day Rest in Seven Act.
The Illinois equal pay act has been extended to include African Americans. The Illinois equal pay act now makes it illegal for Illinois employers to pay African Americans different rates than other ethnicities for the same work or substantially similar work. The substantially similar work is defined as work that requires “equal skill, effort, and responsibility” and that is performed under similar working conditions. Previously, the act was limited to different pay based on gender.
The Illinois Wage Payment Collection Act now requires employers to reimburse employees for expenses that they incur within the scope of their employment. The expenses must be directly related to services performed for the employer in order to fall within the scope of the act. Reimbursement is not required when the expenses are due to the employee’s negligence, due to normal wear and tear, are the result of theft (unless the theft resulted from the employer’s negligence). Reimbursement is also not required if the employee fails to comply with the employer’s written expense reimbursement policy or if the expense was not authorized by the employer.
Previously, Illinois employers were required to provide nursing mothers with unpaid break time to nurse. Now, employers must provide reasonable paid break time for nursing for up to one year after the birth of the child. These breaks may run concurrently with break time that was already provided to the employee.
Under prior law, employers were only required to provide nursing breaks to nursing mothers if doing so would not “unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.” Now, employers are required to provide breaks to nursing mothers unless they can prove that doing so would create an “undue hardship” for the employer. This means that employers must meet a higher standard in order to deny nursing breaks.
As of January 1, 2019, the Illinois Service Member Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (ISERRA) incorporates the provisions of the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This means that service members are entitled to:
Previously employees had 180 days to file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act. This deadline has been extended to 300 days from the date of violation. Employees are now permitted to opt out of the administrative remedy provided by the Illinois Department of Human Rights and instead file a lawsuit. Finally, employers are now required to include notice of employees’ rights under the Illinois Human Rights Act in employee handbooks.
The One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that employers provide employees with at least one day off in a seven day period. Employees who work at least 7.5 continuous hours must be provided with a 20 minute meal break within 5 hours of starting a shift. The Act was amended to create an exception to these rules for emergency medical service employees who are required to be on call for 8-hour periods. Employers are still required to ensure EMS employees time to eat a meal at some point during their on-call period.