November 14, 2019

Illinois Regulatory Roundup

While the lingering effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 continue to dominate tax planning discussions for small businesses, there has been plenty of action at the state level that demands attention, as well. We asked Larry Sexauer, who heads Weiss’s Audits & Assurance Service, to weigh in on the Illinois state legislation he feels will most impact small businesses in 2020 and beyond.

Anti-harassment and workplace protection updates

In August, Governor Pritzker signed legislation aimed to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This will go in effect on January 1, 2020 and imposes significant new responsibilities on all employers.

The Department of Human Rights is required to create a sexual harassment training program available for employers to provide to employees. Employers who fail to provide the training will be subject to fines. Restaurants and bars will be required to provide specialized training and adopt anti-harassment policies. The law also requires hotels and casinos to provide employees who work in isolated spaces with panic buttons to use if they are sexually harassed or assaulted.

Before the new year arrives, employers should:

  • Evaluate and revise their sexual harassment and discrimination policies and procedures
  • Schedule annual Sexual Harassment Training, add it to their onboarding process and create a system for documenting the completion of training in case of an audit
  • Review and revise existing employment contracts, including agreements covering confidentiality, separation/severance, and arbitration

Illinois Secure Choice implementation

With implementation of the program now complete, all businesses with 25 or more employees must now offer their workers access to a qualified retirement savings plan under the terms of the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act (820 ILCS 80/). While this isn’t new legislation, 2020 will mark the first year all businesses must comply.

A couple of notes: If an employer has multiple FEINs with controlled ownership and 25 or more employees combined on quarterly reporting, they are required to offer a retirement plan. Also, companies who employ solely Union workers should receive an exemption from the State in the mail.

Recreational marijuana legalization

Signed into law in June and scheduled to take effect on January 1, House Bill 1438 will make legal statewide the consumption of marijuana for nonmedicinal purposes. More specifically, the new law will allow Illinois adults aged 21 and up to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, and also allow those using marijuana for medical purposes (but not recreational users) to cultivate the plant in their homes.

Legal use is confined for the most part to the user’s private home as well as in some cannabis-related businesses. It remains illegal in any public place, motor vehicle, on school grounds (except for medical users), and in close proximity of minors (under age 21) and on-duty school bus drivers, police officers, firefighters and corrections officers. Moreover, any property owner, business or landlord can prohibit use on their private property. Illinois colleges and universities will also be allowed to ban marijuana use.

How does this affect business owners? Before the New Year, employers should establish a policy regarding marijuana use and drug testing, one that covers likely scenarios. For example, if an employer believes the employee is under the influence, what is the process and penalties? How is that communicated to employees? What are the rules for testing?

Workers need to know that they can’t, for example, have an edible at lunch and come back to the office. But it’s important that employers attempt to address the way the world is now and not use the same old drug and alcohol policy.

Gender-neutral bathroom law

Beginning January 1, all single-occupancy public restrooms in Illinois must be designated as gender-neutral. Specifics of the law can be found here.

Fair Workweek Ordinance (City of Chicago)

This landmark law passed last July and scheduled to go into effect July 20, 2020 aims to give shift workers in certain industries some stability and predictability in their schedules. It applies only to employers with 100+ workers and will require them to comply with numerous new regulations regarding employee scheduling.

Chicago companies doing business in such industries as building services, health care, hotels, manufacturing, restaurants, retail or warehouse services should familiarize themselves with the new ordinance’s requirements. A brief summary can be found here.

Additional change to Illinois job applications

Finally, this reminder: Starting this past October, Illinois employers of any size are prohibited from asking job applicants or their previous employers about salary history. Companies should be sure to review their employment applications, and revise if necessary.

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