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Employment Law Changes to Look Out For — Chicago Employment Lawyers

It’s confusing. Not only do employers need to be aware of all the federal, state, county, and city laws that apply to their business, but they also need to keep up when those laws change – which is pretty much constantly. For this post, we’ve compiled some of the most significant changes to employment law that have recently gone into effect.

Sexual Harassment Policies

This is less a change in the law than a change in the culture. The Illinois Human Rights Act of 2013 made sexual harassment in the workplace illegal, and also made it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who file a sexual harassment claim against them. Nevertheless, most women have long been intimidated into staying quiet about any unwanted advances or sexual violence, and most companies had an unwritten policy of protecting those who committed acts of sexual violence, especially when they held high-level positions.

But 2018 has seen that change in a big way and companies that fail to properly address allegations of sexual misconduct are going to pay the price. More and more women have been empowered to speak up about their experiences and naming their accusers – and the companies who covered it up.

Many of these allegations are not isolated incidents. Instead, victims claim their workplace fostered an environment that encouraged sexually aggressive behavior, and making such claims publicly can hurt their employer’s business and their brand. The result is a heavy cost they’ll have to pay in lost business for months, or even years. So companies would do well to get ahead of any potential problems, not only by updating their workplace conduct policies, but by training staff on appropriate workplace behavior, instituting regular retraining, and making it easy for those who have been attacked to file a claim.

Equal Pay

Illinois’s Equal Pay Act of 2003 requires employers to pay men and women the same wages for the same jobs, but that has proven difficult to enforce. Employers have continued to ask job candidates what they earned in their past jobs and use that as a baseline to determine how much they’ll pay that candidate in their new position. The problem with that is women and minorities tend to be paid less for the same work, so by using their pay history as a baseline to determine their future pay, companies are ensuring the continuation of pay disparity between men and women, and between white people and people of color.

While there is no federal law prohibiting employers from asking about pay history, and Governor Rauner recently vetoed a proposed Illinois state-wide ban on asking about pay history, Mayor Emanuel did ban Chicago’s city departments from asking candidates about their pay history. So those working for the city need to be aware of the change and other Illinois employers might want to implement the change, if only for the purposes of fostering good PR, attracting quality talent, and preparing for the potential change in Illinois law that could be just around the next election.

Genetic Information

There is never any reason an employer should need a worker’s genetic information, but employers have been demanding it and many workers are too afraid of the unemployment line to refuse. Effective January 1, 2018, Illinois enacted a law that prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who refuse to disclose genetic information.

Volunteer Emergency Responders

In addition to professional emergency responders, many communities rely on volunteer emergency responders, many of whom maintain a day job alongside their volunteer duties. That can be problematic for any volunteer responders who get a call or text about an emergency situation while they’re at work. Some employers refuse to let their employees leave when they’re on the clock to handle an emergency that doesn’t personally involve them or any of their family members.

Effective January 1, 2018, Illinois law protects volunteer emergency responders who receive calls or text messages about an emergency while they’re at work. Employers are no longer allowed to discipline workers responding to these kinds of emergency messages while they’re at work.

Minimum Wage

There has been no federal or state-wide increase in minimum wage, but Cook County’s minimum wage went up from $10/hr to $11/hr effective July 1, 2018. Chicago’s minimum wage went up from $11/hr to $12/hr, also effective July 1, 2018, with another raise to $13/hr that will go into effect in July of 2019. The city expects to further increase the minimum wage to $13.50/hr by the year 2022.

The Chicago employment law and class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime and Employment Rights Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and busboys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Hilton, DoubleTree, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America, Staybridge Suites, Best Western, HomeTown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Applebees, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Chili’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim of these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Plainfield and Elk Grove Village. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Evanston and Skokie overtime and employment lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during employment discrimination and wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime and civil rights cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.