With New Laws on the Books, Is Your Handbook Out of Compliance?

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With New Laws on the Books, Is Your Handbook Out of Compliance?

Handbooks can be a critical part of any business. They provide employees with a central resource for all company rules and policies, and they play an important role in protecting businesses from potential liability.

Over the past few years, a number of new employment laws have been enacted that could affect your business. As such, it is important to regularly review your handbook to ensure your business is in compliance with recent legal developments. Here are some recent changes to be aware of:

  1. Minimum wage increase in Chicago and Cook County

The minimum wage in Chicago will increase to $13 per hour and Cook County's minimum wage will increase to $12 per hour, both effective July 1, 2019.

  1. Sick Leave Ordinance in Chicago and Cook County

Generally, qualified employees must now earn one (1) hour of sick leave for every forty (40) hours worked. There are also carry-over provisions under both ordinances, and covered employers must post a notice informing their employees of their rights under both laws. Additionally, the Cook County ordinance requires a covered employer to provide every covered employee with a notice of rights when they become eligible to accrue sick time and at least once per calendar year thereafter.

  1. Employee Reimbursement Policies

Effective January 1, 2019, the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act now requires employers to reimburse employees for "all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee within the employee’s scope of employment and directly related to service performed by the employer." To limit potential liability of unapproved business expenses, employers should clearly outline and implement written reimbursement policies with their employees. Read more on employee reimbursement here.

  1. Paid Breaks for Nursing Mothers

In 2018, the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act was modified to require employers with more than five employees to provide paid break time, as well as a private space, to employees for the purpose of expressing breast milk.

  1. Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA)

Originally enacted in 2003, the Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act ("VESSA") provides certain protections to employees who are, or whose family or household members are, victims of domestic or sexual violence. VESSA prohibits discrimination against such employees, requires employers to provide them with reasonable accommodations, and allows them to take up to 12 weeks of statutorily protected leave. Previously, VESSA only applied to employers that had 15 or more employees. However, as of January 1, 2017, VESSA now applies to all employers.

  1. Illinois Service Member Employment and Reemployment Rights Act

Illinois employees serving in the military are now protected by the Illinois Service Member Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Employers should review their policies governing military leave to ensure compliance, and should post the required notice.

  1. Harassment Policies for Contractors with State of Illinois

Effective January 1, 2019, Public Act 100-0698 took effect, requiring companies submitting bids or offers for a contract the State of Illinois to have a sexual harassment policy and such policy must be provided to the State agency upon request.

  1. Changes in the Illinois Human Rights Act

Employers must post notice to employees of their rights under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Recent changes provide employees with 300 days (as opposed to 180 days in the past) to file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. In addition, employees may now opt out of the administrative process and directly file suit in state court.

  1. Wage Disparities

The Illinois Equal Pay Act was recently amended to address wage disparities between African-American employees and non-African-American employees. In order to ensure compliance, employers should review employee compensation across demographics.

In addition to the various laws and ordinances, the City of Chicago now has a new office, the Office for Labor Standards ("OLS"), which is devoted to enforcing city ordinances relating to employment. This includes the Anti-Wage Theft Ordinance, the Minimum Wage Ordinance, and the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

To ensure your workplace is compliant, it is not only important to conduct a review of your handbook, but it’s also important to review your workplace posters, as most of these new laws require a notice to be visible in the workplace. Our firm can help you review your handbook and provide you with the required posters. Contact us today.