Summer in Chicago always brings welcome change, but the end of the Illinois legislative session in the spring can mean a flurry of new obligations in the summer for Illinois employers. This year is no exception. We highlight five changes Illinois employers should be aware of as they prepare their workforce for this summer and beyond.

  1. The Illinois CROWN Act makes workplace hair discrimination illegal

On June 29, 2022, Governor Pritzker signed the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act (“CROWN Act”) into law, banning race-based hair discrimination by employers in Illinois. Specifically, the CROWN Act, which is effective January 1, 2023, expands the definition of “race” under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to include “traits associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.” Though a similar law, Illinois SB 817, was signed into law in August 2021, it only prohibited schools from issuing policies on hairstyles historically associated with race or ethnicity. The CROWN Act, expands the protection by prohibiting race-based hair discrimination in employment, housing, financial transactions and public accommodations.

Illinois and 16 other states (including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington) and several municipalities have enacted similar CROWN laws. In addition, the US House of Representatives passed a federal CROWN Act in March of this year which would make hair discrimination illegal in all 50 states if passed, but the bill has not yet been approved by the Senate.

What should Illinois employers do now?

Illinois employers should:

  • Revise employee handbooks, with a particular focus on grooming policies, to ensure they emphasize compliance under the CROWN Act.
  • Train managers / supervisors, HR and employees on the CROWN Act to mitigate the possibility of race-based hair or trait discrimination under the CROWN Act and other applicable anti-discrimination laws.
  1. New sexual harassment prevention obligations for Chicago employers

On April 27, 2022, the Chicago City Council passed Substitute Ordinance 2022-665, amending the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance and creating new obligations for Chicago employers relating to sexual harassment prevention. The amendments became effective July 1, 2022.

Here are the key changes Chicago employers need to know:

New written policy requirements

Employers must have a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment as of July 1, 2022. The written policy must include:

  • The definition of sexual harassment in Section 6-10-020, which has been revised to specifically include sexual misconduct: “any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; or (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment; or (iii) sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.”
  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago, as well as a statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
  • Examples of sexual harassment.
  • Details on how an employee can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including, as appropriate, instructions on how to make confidential reports (with an internal complaint form) to managers, corporate headquarters, human resources, or other internal reporting processes.
  • Information about legal services, including governmental agencies, available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment.

The written policy must be made available to employees within their first calendar week of starting employment, in the employee’s primary language.

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations (the “Commission”) has provided model sexual harassment policies in several languages on its website.

New training requirements

The written policy also must include a requirement that all employees participate in annual sexual harassment prevention training–and employers are required to mandate their employees participate in the trainings beginning July 1, 2022, meaning that by June 30, 2023 all employees must receive their first round of required annual training. Specifically:

  • All employees must participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually
  • Supervisors / managers must participate in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually
  • All employees must also participate in a minimum of one hour of bystander training annually

The State of Illinois model sexual harassment prevention training program, which provides one hour of training, is sufficient for the sexual harassment prevention training for employees. In addition, training templates and materials for the additional hour of training (for supervisors / managers) and for the hour of bystander training have been made available to employers on the Commission’s website.

New notice requirements

Effective July 1, 2022, all employers are required to conspicuously display–in at least one location where employees commonly gather–posters, both in English and in Spanish, designed by the Commission about the prohibitions on sexual harassment. The posters are available for download on the Commission’s website.

Recordkeeping requirements

Employers must keep a record of the employer’s written policy prohibiting sexual harassment, trainings given to each employee, and records demonstrating compliance for at least five years–or for the duration of any claim, civil action, or pending investigation relating to the law, whichever is longer. If employers fail to maintain the records, a presumption is created that the employer is in violation of the law (rebuttable only by clear and convincing evidence).

Longer statute of limitations, longer notification period for the Commission, and penalties

Employees now have a 365 day statute of limitations (instead of 300 days) to report all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment. In addition, after receiving a report of an alleged violation, the Commission has 30 days to notify a respondent (increased from 10 days)–which, according to outreach materials on the amendments, is intended to mitigate retaliation such as denial of a reasonable accommodation request.

Any employer who violates the written policy, training or notice requirements is subject to a fine of between $500-$1000 per day, per offense.

What should Chicago employers should do now?

  • Review sexual harassment prevention training programs for timing and content to ensure they comply with the new law.
  • Determine rollout procedures to ensure all employees receive training before June 30, 2023.
  • Train HR on the new amendments, including recordkeeping requirements.
  • Visit the Commission’s website for helpful model materials.


Continue Reading Illinois Employer Summer Checklist: 5 Recent Changes You Should Know

As the Omicron wave recedes, a raft of states have announced plans to lift their mask mandates.

In the past few days alone, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island have announced changes to their face covering rules. And if the number of Omicron cases continues to dwindle

Illinois employers have been waiting for answers on two important questions regarding the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA):

  1. Whether the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (the Compensation Act) preempts BIPA statutory damages, and
  2. Whether BIPA claims accrue each time a person’s biometric information is scanned or transmitted without informed consent–or just the first time.

The

Illinois employers have a plethora of new laws to keep up with for 2022. From new Chicago and Cook County patron vaccination orders, to new laws limiting restrictive covenants, to pay data reporting (and more!), new Illinois laws are certain to make for a busy 2022 for Illinois employers. Here are 10 changes employers should know now as we get the ball rolling in 2022.

  1. Chicago and Cook County Vaccination Orders Require Some Employers to Check Vaccination Status of Employees and Require Testing for Unvaccinated Employees

Employers at restaurants, bars, gyms, and other establishments in Chicago and Cook County have already started scrambling to implement patron vaccination requirements–and requirements that they obtain the vaccination status of their employees and require weekly testing for employees who aren’t fully vaccinated. As of January 3, 2022, Mayor Lightfoot’s Public Health Order 2021-2 and the Cook County Department of Public Health’s Public Health Order 2021-11  took effect. Under the Orders, covered businesses (including establishments where food and beverages are served, gyms and fitness venues, and entertainment and recreation venues in areas where food and beverages are served) must:

  • Turn away patrons age 5 and over entering the indoor portion of an establishment unless they show a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or an official immunization record (or a photo of the same) from the jurisdiction, state, or country where the vaccine was administered, reflecting the person’s name, vaccine brand, the date(s) administered and full vaccination status (two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). There are certain narrow exceptions, such as allowing individuals inside for 10 minutes or less to carry out food or use the bathroom
  • Post signage informing patrons of the vaccination requirement
  • Develop and maintain a written record of the protocol for implementing and enforcing the Orders’ requirements

While covered businesses that are employers do not have to require employees to be vaccinated, they must:

  • determine the vaccination status of each employee by requiring each vaccinated employee to provide acceptable proof of vaccination status (including whether the employee is fully or partially vaccinated), and maintain a record of each employee’s vaccination status; and
  • require COVID-19 testing for employees who are not fully vaccinated. Employees who are not fully vaccinated and who report at least once every 7 days to a workplace where there are others present must be tested for COVID-19 at least once every 7 days and must provide documentation of the most recent COVID-19 test result to their employer no later than the 7thday following the date on which the employee last provided a test result.

Employers with 100 or more employees must also comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Emergency Temporary Standard (OSHA ETS), at least for now. The US Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether to block the ETS at a special January 7 session, but until the Supreme Court issues its ruling, the ETS stands, requiring employers with at least 100 employees to implement and enforce a policy that mandates employees to be fully vaccinated or to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing and mask-wearing. For more on the Chicago and Cook County Orders and the OSHA ETS, see our blog here.

Continue Reading Illinois Employers: Ten Top Developments for 2022

It could be a hectic start to 2022 for some Chicago and Cook County employers. On January 3, 2022, Mayor Lightfoot’s Public Health Order 2021-2 and the Cook County Department of Public Health’s Public Health Order 2021-11  took effect, mandating proof of full vaccination (two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) for patrons age five and older before they can enjoy certain public establishments.

Though the Orders are largely patron-focused (and employees are likely not “patrons” under the Orders), businesses in Chicago and Cook County will also need to comply with the Orders’ requirements that employers ensure employees are fully vaccinated or produce weekly negative COVID-19 tests.

Here’s what Chicago and Cook County employers need to know now.

Which establishments are covered?

  • Establishments where food or beverages are served, including but not limited to restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, dining areas of grocery stores, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls, and hotel ballrooms
  • Gyms and fitness venues, including but not limited to gyms, recreation facilities, fitness centers, yoga, pilates, cycling, barre, and dance studios, hotel gyms, boxing and kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, and other facilities used for conducting indoor group fitness classes
  • Entertainment and recreation venues in areas where food or beverages are served, including but not limited to movie theaters, music and concert venues, live performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, play areas, pool and billiard halls, and other recreational game centers

What if you own a restaurant that only provides carry out? You won’t need to check the vaccination status of every patron coming in to grab food and go. Individuals entering an establishment for less than 10 minutes for the purpose of ordering and carrying out food, making a delivery, or using the bathroom are exempted. In addition, there are other exemptions, including for individuals who have previously received a medical or religious exemption as long as they provide the establishment proof of the exemption and a COVID-19 test administered by a medical professional within the last 72 hours prior to entering the establishment.

Continue Reading Chicago and Cook County Employers: Ring in the New Year with New COVID Requirements for Patrons and Employees

What’s scarier than Halloween? For Illinois employers, it could be that they now have only approximately two months to prepare for Illinois’ new limits on employee restrictive covenants. On August 13, 2021, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill (SB) 672 (now Public Act 102-0358) into law, imposing new conditions on employers’ use of noncompete agreements and nonsolicitation agreements in Illinois. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2022, with Illinois joining the tide of states (as well as the federal government–see our blog on President Biden’s recent Executive Order addressing restrictive covenants here) cracking down on employers’ use of restrictive covenants.

Here’s what Illinois employers need to know now.

Employers have a couple of months to prepare–and don’t need to look back at prior agreements

The Act is effective for any contract entered into after January 1, 2022, and does not apply retroactively. Therefore, employers will not be required to inventory and assess agreements signed prior to the Act’s effective date.

Noncompete agreements banned for employees making $75,000 per year or less

The Act does not ban noncompetes for all Illinois employees, but instead for those making $75,000 per year in earnings or less. This salary threshold will increase by $5,000 every five years until it reaches $90,000 in 2037.

“Earnings” includes what employers might expect: earned salary, earned bonuses, earned commissions, or any other form of compensation reported on an employee’s IRS Form W-2.

Continue Reading Don’t Get Spooked By the New Restrictions on Restrictive Covenants in Illinois

Special thanks to presenters Melissa Allchin, Matthew Gorman, Christopher Guldberg, Scott McMillen, Betsy Morgan, Michael Poland, Sandhya Sharma, Aimee Soodan, Brian Wydajewski.

In these recordings of our two-part webinar series, our presenters take a look back at 2020 and forecast what is likely to have the

It’s hard to miss the uptick in litigation against high profile US companies over alleged unequal pay for female employees these days. Cases seem to hit the headlines frequently and several targeted industries include professional sports, professional services organizations, and technology companies. With equal pay protections constantly expanding, and employees often seeking class certification, in 2021, employers should be especially diligent in identifying and rectifying unjustified pay disparities.

So, if you need a New Year’s Resolution, consider undertaking a pay equity audit. This will position your company to determine, at baseline, whether any unjustified pay disparities exist, where those disparities lie and proactively take any remedial measures to help mitigate against becoming a headline. In conducting a pay equity audit, employers should pay close attention to the legal backdrop of pay equity, and how that landscape is changing.

As we head into the New Year, here are several US developments companies ought to know:

California Enacts First Employee Data Reporting Law

On September  30, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 973, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s bill relating to annual reporting of employee pay data. SB 973 requires private employers with 100 or more employees to report employee pay data to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) by March 31, 2021, and annually thereafter, for specified job categories by gender, race and ethnicity. California will be the first state to require employers to submit such employee data.

Continue Reading US Pay Equity and Transparency Developments: What You Need to Know Going Into 2021

On May 20, 2020, Chicago passed the “COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance,” making it illegal for employers with employees in the City of Chicago to retaliate against employees who stay home: to follow public health orders related to COVID-19, to quarantine because of COVID-19 symptoms, or to care for an individual ill with COVID-19. Enacted as an amendment to Chicago’s Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, the Anti-Retaliation Ordinance prohibits employers from terminating, demoting, or taking other adverse action against employees who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.

What do I need to know?

Under the Ordinance, an employer cannot terminate, demote, or take any other adverse action against an employee for obeying an order issued by Mayor Lightfoot, Governor Pritzker, or the Chicago Department of Public Health (or, in the case of subsections (2) through (4) below, a treating healthcare provider) requiring the employee to:

  1. Stay at home to minimize the transmission of COVID-19;
  2. Remain at home while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or while being sick with COVID-19;
  3. Obey a quarantine order issued to the employee (to keep an employee who has come into contact with an infected person separate from others);
  4. Obey an isolation order issued to the employee (to separate an employee with COVID-19 from others); or
  5. Obey an order issued by the Commissioner of Health regarding the duties of hospitals and other congregate facilities.

In addition, an employer cannot take adverse action against an employee for caring for an individual subject to subsections (1) through (3) above.

The Ordinance became effective on May 20, 2020, and will expire (unless City Council intervenes) when the Commissioner of Public Health makes a written determination “that the threat to public health posed by COVID-19 has diminished to the point that [the] ordinance can safely be repealed.”

Continue Reading Chicago Employers: Allow Your Employees to Obey COVID-19 Public Health Orders, or Else