Client Alert


Updates to Employment Laws – Here’s What You Need to Know

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Changes to Federal and Illinois laws will likely require you to update your employment practices and policies. Below is a summary of new acts and amendments affecting Illinois employers.

Federal Updates

The Fair Labor Standards Act Overtime Rules
(effective January 1, 2020)

  • Raises the “standard salary level” for executive, administrative and professional exemptions from $455 per week to $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker).
  • Raises the total annual compensation requirement for “highly compensated employees” from the currently enforced level of $100,000 per year to $107,432 per year.
  • Allows employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level.

Illinois Updates

The Workplace Transparency Act
(effective January 1, 2020)

The WTA prohibits:

  • Employers from restricting an employee’s ability to report allegations of unlawful conduct, including discrimination, harassment and retaliation, for investigation by authorities.
  • Employers from requiring an employee to waive, arbitrate, “or otherwise diminish” existing or future claims, rights, or benefits related to unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

However, the prohibitions above do not apply if the following conditions are met:

  • There is “actual, knowing, and bargained-for consideration from both parties.”
  • The employer acknowledges the employee’s right to:
    • Report a good faith allegation of an unlawful employment practice or criminal conduct to governmental authorities;
    • Participate in governmental proceedings;
    • Make truthful statements or disclosures required by law, regulation, or legal process; and
    • Request or receive confidential legal advice.

The WTA provides that severance agreements with confidentiality or non-disparagement clauses must:

  • Be the documented preference of both parties;
  • Advise the employee in writing to consult an attorney;
  • Provide the employee a benefit for the confidentiality language;
  • Provide the employee 21 days to review the agreement;
  • Allow the employee 7 days to revoke the agreement; and
  • Not waive claims of discrimination or harassment that occur after signing the agreement.

Read More

Amendments to the Equal Pay Act
(effective September 29, 2019)

  • Prevents employers from requesting wage or compensation history from prospective employees.
  • Prevents employers from restricting an employee from disclosing his or her wages or benefits.

Amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act
(effective January 1, 2020 unless otherwise provided below)

  • Expands the definition of employer to include employers with as few as one employee working twenty weeks during the year in Illinois (effective July 1, 2020);
  • Expands the definition of “unlawful discrimination to include “perceived” race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, order of protection status, military status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or unfavorable discharge from the military, not just disability and sexual orientation;
  • Expands the definition of harassment to include “unwelcome conduct” based on any of the protected traits that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment,” not just sexual harassment;
  • Expands the location of “working environment” to include locations outside the office;
  • Prohibits harassment (including sexual harassment) by an employer against non-employees, including contractors, consultants, and anyone else directly performing services for the employer pursuant to a written or unwritten contract with that employer;
  • Requires employers to conduct annual sexual harassment prevention training for employees, with additional prevention training requirements for bars and restaurants (effective January 1, 2020 for employers with 15 or more employees and effective July 1, 2020 for employers with less than 15 employees); and
  • Requires employers to disclose any adverse judgments beginning July 1, 2020. The Department of Human Rights will compile disclosures and release them to the public once per year.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act
(effective January 1, 2020)

  • Legalizes personal-use cannabis for adults over 21-years old; and
  • Prohibits employers from restricting recreational use of marijuana outside of working hours, but allows employers to create zero-tolerance, non-discriminatory anti-use laws for employees during working and on-call hours.

The Illinois Minimum Wage Act
(effective January 1, 2020)

  • Increases the Illinois minimum wage rate to $9.25 an hour and will reach $15 in 2025. The tipped minimum wage for 2020 year will be $5.55.
  • NOTE: the City of Chicago and Illinois counties have varying minimum wages.

Please email or call Keith H. Berk or Shelley H. Koren with any questions about how these updates could impact your business.

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Chicago IL 60661

Phone: 312-606-3200 Fax: 312-606-3232
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