Hey Hey Hey Goodbye to 2017, Hello 2018

When it came to 2017, many employers (and the awesome HR people who serve them), were asking themselves, “really, do I have to comply with __________(fill in the blank)?

Let’s review the notable Illinois Acts, Ordinances and Laws that went into effect in 2017. One of the most administratively burdensome acts to go into effect in 2017 were city, county and state Sick Leave Ordinances:

Illinois Sick Leave Act. This law requires any employer in the State of Illinois to allow employees to use a portion of the sick leave time that is already available to them, under existing policies, to care for certain relatives. Employers are required to allow employees to use such time “for absences due to an illness, injury, or medical appointment of the employee’s child, spouse, [domestic partner], sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent, for reasonable periods of time as the employee’s attendance may be necessary, on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.”  The caveat here--this law is only applicable to those employers who offer sick time to their employees. 

On July 1, 2017, both the Chicago and Cook County* Paid Sick Leave Ordinances become effective. Both ordinances are nearly identical in scope, but a bit complicated, especially considering additional leave entitlements when the employer is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Listed below are a few important points to be aware of:

● Employers covered by the Ordinance include all that employ at least one covered employee. 

● Both Ordinances define a “covered employee” as an employee who spends at least two hours of work in any two-week period in either the city of Chicago or Cook County. 

● Leave can be taken for any of the following reasons:

o An employee’s own illness, injury or medical care or for that of a family member.

o For an employee or their family member who is a victim of domestic violence/sex offense.

o If the business or school is closed for a public health emergency. 

*Over 80% of the municipalities in Cook County opted out of the Ordinance.

The Illinois Freedom to Work Act prohibits employers from enforcing non-compete agreements for employees who earn $13 per hour or less. Specifically, the Act prohibits an employer from entering into an agreement that restricts the low-wage employee from performing:

● Any work for another employer for a specified period of time;

● Any work in a specified geographical area; or

● Work for another employer that is similar to such low-wage employees work for the employer included as a party to the agreement.

Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (Expansion). This law, commonly known as VESSA,  has been in effect for employers with 50+ employees since 2003. VESSA allows employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence or who have family or household members who are victims of such violence to take unpaid leave to seek medical help, legal assistance, counseling, safety planning, and other assistance. Employers with at least 50+ employees must allow 12 weeks of unpaid time off. Employers with 15-49 employees must allow for 8 weeks of unpaid time off and as of January 1, 2017, Illinois employers with 1-14 employees must allow 4 weeks of unpaid time off for matters under VESSA. 

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Now, let’s explore what’s in store for 2018?

First, in Hebrew, the number 18 means “Chai” (that’s phonetically K th I, not chai as in chai latte), which means, “life”. Giving in multiples of 18 signifies a good omen for life. I also like to think that 18 brings luck. So, both personally and professionally, I’ll be viewing 2018 in terms of living life to the fullest. 

Now that we understand more about “18” and its significance, what kind of workplace issues can we expect in 2018?

Workplace Sexual Harassment. Sexual harassment scandals in the news, and other places were everywhere we turned in 2017, and the “#MeToo” movement made clear just how widespread the problem is. Employers that fail to take constructive steps to prevent harassing behavior or respond to allegations of harassment risk exposure to EEOC charges or litigation.

Advice: Dust off your policies, review and train not only your managers, but all employees. 

Bans on Queries About a Candidate's Salary History. This has been around since 2016 for multiple cities and states banning employers from asking about candidates' previous pay.  The theory is that women sometimes begin their careers at a pay disadvantage, and if their past salary is used as a marker for future salary offers, their pay will remain behind men's. Cities and states where these questions are illegal include California, Oregon, Delaware, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, New York City, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. According to the National Women’s Law Center, in 2017 nearly half of states considered legislation to ban asking about salary history in hiring. 

Marijuana Movement

What does this mean for employers?

● Cannabis usage is still illegal under federal law. 

● Seven states and DC have passed measures legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Pending legislation is in other states.

● You can still drug test even if you are located in a state where marijuana use (recreational or medicinal) is legal. 

● This will definitely get more difficult before it gets easier.

Advice: Have a well-written and consistent policy on marijuana, just as you would for alcohol usage in the workplace. 

Happy 2018! L’Chaim or To life!