Recently-Passed Illinois Laws Require Important HR Policy Changes

New IL Laws

If you are an Illinois employer, do not delay implementing updates to your employee handbook to keep pace with the many new laws enacted by Governor Pritzker this year.

Significant amendments to the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which became effective September 29th, may require an immediate change in the way you screen candidates for employment. Employers are now prohibited from asking for the candidate’s salary or wage information from his/her current or former employers. The prohibition extends to oral interview questions and written applications. However, a candidate may volunteer prior salary info provided it’s not used by the employer as a basis for hiring.

The changes to the Equal Pay Act are an attempt by the State of Illinois to promote equal pay and reduce the gender pay gap. Employers who are found in violation of the new amendments may be subject to fines of $5,000 per violation and special damages up to $10,000. Read more here.

Two other laws which go into effect on January 1, 2020 aim to enlarge the protections afforded to employees from unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

The Illinois Workplace Transparency Act (WTA) makes it illegal for employment agreements to “restrict an employee from reporting allegations of unlawful conduct to federal, state or local officials for investigation.” Employers who previously used employment agreements which required mandatory arbitration of any claims of discrimination or wrongful employment practices, must now re-write those clauses or run afoul of the new law.

The WTA does allow an employer to negotiate with an employee on an individual basis to arbitrate claims in exchange for separate consideration, but such an agreement cannot require the employee to relinquish his/her right to report discrimination or harassment to the appropriate local, state and federal authorities. Similarly, an employer may seek confidentiality in a severance agreement, but the WTA imposes strict timeframes around the offer to the separated employee for consideration, acceptance and revocation. Bottom-line is that employers must review both their current employment agreements and severance agreements to ensure compliance with the new WTA. Read more here.

Also starting January 1st, the same bill which created the WTA will require an employer with any employees working in Illinois to provide annual interactive sexual harassment prevention training. Employers may use a training module to be provided by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (not yet released), or a program selected by the employer provided it meets certain designated criteria. For full details on this new law, click here.

If you are interested in updating your HR policies to comply with the new laws, or scheduling harassment training in 2020, please contact Cindi Elstien, Director of HR, or your Alper representative.