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Illinois ushers in 2015 with new employment laws

January 2, 2015
With decorations, feasts, and other holiday merriment behind them, employers in Illinois get to celebrate the start of another year by updating their policies and practices to comply with several recently enacted laws that took effect Jan. 1. These include the following:
Pregnancy accommodation, new mandatory poster
Perhaps the most significant new law affecting Illinois employers is Public Act 98-1050, which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to expand legal protection for pregnant employees, requiring all employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. 
Among other requirements, the new law obligates employers to post a notice to employees. The poster is mandatory for all employers, not just those with 15 or more employees. 
The poster, along with a separate fact sheet for employers regarding the requirements of the new law, is available on the website of the Illinois Department of Human Resources. 
Notably, although the information on the Department’s website only references posting the notice in a conspicuous place where other employment law notices are posted, the state’s amended Human Rights Act also appears to require employers to publish the notice in any employee handbook that includes information about employee rights under the Act. 
Ban the Box
Another new Illinois law, the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (PA 98-0774), more commonly referred to as the "Ban the Box" law, prohibits private sector employers with 15 or more employees from asking job applicants about their criminal background in the pre-employment process, prior to extending an offer of an interview or conditional employment.
Instead, the Act now requires that applicants be notified of their selection for an interview, or given a conditional offer if there is no interview, before any such inquiry or disclosure.  This is similar to Illinois’ prohibition against inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on State employment applications. 
Payroll card programs
Public Act 98-0862 amends the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act to impose new restrictions on payroll card programs offered by employers. 
While the new law provides an alternative to the traditional methods of payment by check or direct deposit, employers who elect this payment method must be aware of specific requirements imposed by the new legislation. 
Significantly, the law prohibits employers from requiring employees to receive wages on payroll cards as a condition of employment and, if an employer offers payroll cards as a payment option, it must still provide an alternative form of payment to its employees.
Sexual harassment protection for unpaid interns
Public Act 98-1037 amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to extend the Act’s prohibition on sexual harassment to unpaid interns.