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Gifts that Don’t Quite Fit in Your Stocking: New Employment Laws Taking Effect in 2017


December 22, 2016

By Lindsey M. Marcus and William R. Pokorny

A number of new state or local laws are set to take effect in Illinois in 2017 which will require employers to update their employee handbooks, employment agreements, and other policies and procedures. We address the key changes briefly here, and include links to our previous, more detailed analyses of the various laws within the text.

Prohibition on Non-Compete Agreements for Low-Wage Workers: The Illinois Freedom to Work Act prohibits employers from requiring employees earning $13 per hour or less to sign a covenant not to compete as a condition of employment. As we explained here, the applicable wage threshold will increase in the future if the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage exceeds $13. The law applies to agreements entered into after January 1, 2017.

Restrictions on Employer Access to Personal Online Accounts: Since 2012 employers have been prohibited from requiring employees to provide their passwords to social networking sites. Effective January 1, 2017, amendments to this law also prohibit an employer from engaging in other activity related to employees’ “personal online accounts,” which are defined as online accounts that are used primarily for personal purposes. The prohibited activity includes:

  • requesting, requiring, or coercing an employee or applicant to authenticate or access a personal online account in the presence of the employer;
  • requiring or coercing an employee or applicant to invite the employer to join a group affiliated with the employee’s or applicant’s personal online account;
  • requiring or coercing an employee or applicant to join an online account established by the employer or add the employer or an employment agency to the employee's or applicant's list of contacts that enable the contacts to access the employee or applicant's personal online account;
  • discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for refusing to engage in the above-referenced activity or for filing a complaint concerning an employer's violation of these requirements; and
  • failing or refusing to hire an applicant who refuses to provide certain information relating to his or her personal online account.

Notably, the law expressly allows employers to require an employee or applicant to share specific content from a personal online account that has been reported to the employer (without requesting or requiring an employee or applicant to provide a username or password) in certain situations, including investigating an alleged violation of law or work-related employee misconduct. The law also provides a “safe harbor” for situations where an employer’s otherwise lawful technology that monitors an employer’s network for network security or data confidentiality purposes receives information that allows an employer to access a personal online account.

Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights Act: (DWBOR): Effective January 1, 2017, the DWBOR extends certain legal protections to domestic workers. “Domestic work” includes house cleaning, home management, nanny services, caregiving, cooking, chauffeuring, and other household services performed in a private residence or other location where domestic work is performed. Under DWBOR, domestic workers will now enjoy the anti-discrimination protections of the Illinois Human Rights Act; be entitled to receive compensation of at least the state’s minimum wage (currently $8.25 per hour) and overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a single workweek; and be entitled to at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every calendar week if they so desire.

Minimum Wage: The minimum wage in Chicago will increase from $10.50 to $11.00 on July 1, 2017, and the minimum wage in the rest of Cook County will increase from $8.25 to $10.00 on the same date. The statewide minimum wage will remain the same ($8.25) in 2017.

Expansion of Employer Coverage under VESSA: Effective January 1, 2017, the Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) has been amended to apply to employers with at least one employee. (Before the amendment, the threshold for employer coverage was 15 employees.) VESSA allows an employee to take unpaid leave for certain purposes if the employee or the employee’s family member has been a victim of domestic or sexual violence. The required length of leave is as follows: Up to four workweeks if the employer has between one and 14 employees; up to 8 workweeks if the employer has between 15 and 49 employees; and up to 12 workweeks if the employer has more than 50 employees.

Mandatory Retirement Plans: Under the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act, all Illinois employers (including non-profits) with 25 or more Illinois-based employees who do not sponsor a workplace retirement plan, and who have been in existence for more than two years, will be required to enroll their employees in a state-run Roth-style individual retirement account. Although the law creating the savings program was enacted in 2015, the program is to be implemented on June 1, 2017. Employers who are subject to this law and have not yet taken steps to comply should do so as soon as possible, as they may be subject to penalties for failing to timely enroll eligible employees in the program. Read more about the program here.

Employee Sick Leave Act: Beginning on January 1, 2017, this state law requires Illinois employers who already provide sick leave for the employee’s own medical needs to allow employees to use that leave for the medical needs of their family members. The law defines “personal sick leave benefits” as time accrued and available to an employee to be used as a result of absence from work due to personal illness, injury, or medical appointment. Our analysis is here.

Paid Sick Leave: As we wrote about in more detail here and here, employers in Cook County will be required to provide a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked beginning on July 1, 2017. Twenty hours of unused sick leave must be carried over, and employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must allow employees to carry over 40 hours of accrued sick leave.

Child Bereavement Leave: The law requires employers that are covered by the FMLA to provide up to two weeks (10 working days) of unpaid leave to employees in the event of the death of an employee’s child. Although this law became effective on July 29, 2016, we are including it in the event employers missed it earlier this year.

Human Trafficking Poster Notice: Also effective in 2016, the Human Trafficking Resource Center Notice Act requires certain employers to post a notice in a conspicuous place regarding human trafficking. Employers covered under this law include: businesses where the sale of alcohol is the principal business and that hold licenses for on-premise consumption retailer licenses under the Liquor Control Act of 1934; adult entertainment facilities; primary airports; intercity passenger rail or light rail stations; bus stations; truck stops; emergency rooms within general acute care hospitals; urgent care centers; farm labor contractors; and private job recruitment centers. The notice must be posted in English and Spanish, as well as in one other language that is the most widely spoken language in the county where the employer is located. Model notices in English and numerous other languages are available here.

Please contact us for more specific information on these new compliance obligations, including assistance in updating your policies, agreements, and other documents.

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