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New Illinois laws force employers to update policies and procedures


Important changes to Illinois employment law are going into effect that will change how employers accommodate greater protections for employees. Illinois employers need to take these laws seriously and prepare to comply with them in the workplace.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the scope of protection provided by the Illinois Human Rights Act will expand. Under the expanded provisions:

– Discrimination can be based upon either an individual’s actual or perceived protected class, such as race, religion and/or age;

– The workplace where harassment is prohibited can include the building in which an employee performs his or her duties as well as remote work sites;

– Non-employees, such as contractors, consultants, and others performing services for an employer, will have protection under IHRA;

– Every Illinois employer must provide annual anti-sexual harassment training, including an explanation of sexual harassment, examples of unlawful sexual harassment, a summary of relevant state and federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment, the consequences for violating those laws, and a summary of the employer’s responsibility to prevent, investigate, and correct sexual harassment; and

– Employers must report to the state of Illinois by July 20 each year the total number of adverse judgments or administrative rulings against the employer under federal and state law.

Also, effective Jan. 1, 2020, victims of gender violence can receive the protections of the Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA), such as unpaid leave in certain circumstances.

Illinois’ new Workplace Transparency Act (WTA) applies to contracts and agreements entered into, modified, or extended on or after Jan. 1, 2020. The WTA imposes restrictions on any agreement or contract that requires an employee or applicant to accept the agreement or contract as a standard employment agreement over which the employee or applicant cannot bargain. Such agreements cannot include confidentiality or non-disparagement provisions that would prohibit any employee from making disclosures about alleged unlawful employment practices.

The new Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act has implications for both hiring practices and drug testing. Employers are still permitted to enforce a drug-free workplace and zero-tolerance policies that prohibit employees being at work while under the influence of marijuana. Disciplinary action must be based on a belief that the employee’s performance is impaired, including symptoms of the employee’s speech, physical dexterity, agility, coordination, demeanor, or irrational or unusual behavior.

Enforcement is delicate because employees who use marijuana recreationally are protected by the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, which prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against any employee for using lawful products outside of the workplace and during non-working hours. Additionally, individuals using medical marijuana pursuant to a prescription have separate protections in Illinois under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, although cannabis patients may not use medical marijuana while at work or on call.

Employers should take steps now to update their policies and practices and educate their HR and management personnel to ensure a seamless transition.

Jordan Lewis is an attorney at Carmody MacDonald P.C. and specializes in business litigation, employment law and real estate.   This column appears in the monthly edition of the Illinois Business Journal, which can be found at


1 Comment

  1. Becky on February 18, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Do employers actually have to follow their handbook of policies, or is it just a guideline?

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