New Illinois Employment Laws for 2015

February 3, 2015

Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation Act, Secure Choice Savings Program Act, and Eavesdropping Law Fix

It has been a busy new year for Illinois employers. 2015 has brought not only a new administration to Springfield, but new laws with direct implications for the workplace. This alert highlights three laws that either were passed or went into effect during the last days of Governor Pat Quinn's administration.

Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation Act

Effective January 1, 2015, the Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation Act (PAA) expanded protections available to pregnant employees through expansive amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (the IHRA). The PAA applies to all employers, regardless of size, and amends the IHRA to bar discrimination based on pregnancy. "Pregnancy" is broadly defined to include pregnancy, childbirth, and medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

More ambitiously, the PAA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants affected by pregnancy. Like accommodations required under disability discrimination laws, these accommodations are intended to assist employees to perform the essential functions of their job. Upon request, the employer is required to provide the reasonable accommodation unless it can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. Of course, the employer cannot force the individual to take an accommodation she does not want, require leave in lieu of a reasonable accommodation, or retaliate against her for requesting a reasonable accommodation.

The PAA includes a nonexclusive list of reasonable accommodations that employers may consider for employees affected by pregnancy. The list includes:

  • More frequent or longer bathroom breaks
  • Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk or breastfeeding
  • Part-time or modified work schedules
  • Assistance with manual labor
  • Light-duty work
  • Reassignment to vacant positions
  • Time off to recover from childbirth
  • Leave necessitated by the employee's pregnancy- or childbirth-related conditions

Late in 2014, the Illinois Department of Human Rights published a notice outlining the rights granted by the PAA, which employers must post for all its employees to see. A copy can be found here. In addition, employers must add information about these new rights to employee handbooks or policy manuals.

Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act

On January 4, 2015, Governor Quinn signed the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act (the "Savings Program Act") into law, making Illinois the first state to mandate a retirement savings plan for private sector employees. The Savings Program Act requires covered employers to offer their employees automatic enrollment into a state-run Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) program via payroll deduction unless the employer already offers a qualified retirement savings program. Although employers will be required to offer the program, no employer contributions will be required. The program will be known as the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Fund (the "Fund").

The Savings Program Act applies to private sector employers: a) engaged in business in Illinois; b) with 25 or more employees; c) that have been in business for more than two years; and d) that do not already offer their employees retirement benefits. All employers subject to the Savings Program Act must auto-enroll employees aged 18 or older into the Fund at a 3 percent payroll deduction. Employees may affirmatively opt out of participating in the Fund or elect a different contribution amount. The administration and supervision of the Fund will be accomplished by a yet-to-be-appointed, seven-member board.

Although the Savings Program Act becomes effective on June 1, 2015, many questions about its scope and implementation remain undetermined. No enrollment of employees will take place for at least two years. Furthermore, the employer mandate will not begin until the seven-member board is appointed and opens the program for enrollment. Although immediate compliance with the Act is not necessary, employers should begin familiarizing themselves with the requirements under the mandate, establish a plan for necessary changes to payroll, and be aware of news and updates in the coming months as the seven-member board is appointed and the Fund develops.

Illinois Eavesdropping Law Fix

Before March 2014, Illinois had one of the strictest anti-eavesdropping laws in the nation. That changed, however, when the State Supreme Court ruled that the law – which made it a felony to record nearly any conversation without the consent of all participants – was unconstitutionally overbroad. The state legislature got to work quickly to fill the void left by the statute's invalidation.

On December 30, 2014, Governor Quinn signed SB1342, which amended the Eavesdropping Law by narrowing its scope. The new law now criminalizes only the secret recording and dissemination of private conversations without consent, rather than all conversations. In other words, if at least one participant in a conversation has a reasonable expectation that the conversation is private, it may not be recorded without the consent of all participants. Additionally, the Eavesdropping Law prohibits the non-consensual interception of "private electronic communication" to which the individual was not a party. Such communication includes email exchanges and video conferences where at least one participant reasonably expects the communication to be private.

This new amendment has implications that Illinois employers should not ignore. On the one hand, it goes a long way toward preventing employees from surreptitiously recording private workplace conversations, including confidential business meetings and supervisor/employee interaction. On the other hand, it erects barriers to employers' recording investigatory interviews and monitoring private conversations involving employees. Moreover, the prohibition on interception of private electronic communications makes it more important than ever that employers have well-defined email or Internet use policies. An effective policy will help establish that employees have no expectation of privacy in their use of employers' Internet and email systems.

If you would like more information about how these laws may affect your workplace, or would like guidance on modifying your existing employment policies to comply, please contact Brian Pezza, Carleen Griffith, or another member of Lewis Rice's Labor & Employment Practice Group.