New laws affecting Illinois employers take effect January 1

by Steven L. Brenneman

Illinois employers need to be aware of a few new laws taking effect January 1.

Ban the box

One of the new laws, the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, prohibits most private-sector employers and employment agencies with 15 or more employees from asking applicants about their criminal histories and conducting criminal background checks until after they are deemed qualified for a job.

Under the law, employers may not inquire about, consider, or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until he has been deemed qualified for a position and has been notified that he has been selected for an interview. If there is no interview, the employer may not inquire into the applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until after making a conditional offer of employment.

The “ban the box” law contains some exceptions, including positions involving fidelity bonding, employers employing licensees under the Emergency Medical Systems Act, and employers that are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions because of federal or state law.

Payroll cards

An amendment to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act prohibits employers from making the use of payroll cards to pay wages a condition of employment. The new law is aimed at curbing excessive fees that siphon the earnings of low-wage workers. Under the law, employers are allowed to pay an employee’s wages via a payroll card, but the payroll card program must provide the employee with, among other things:

  • At least one method of withdrawing all net wages every two weeks at no cost to the employee at a location readily available to her;
  • A transaction history if requested by the employee; and
  • A method to obtain the payroll card account balance without incurring a fee.

The law also prohibits fees for declined transactions or point-of-sale transactions or for loading wages or participating in the payroll card program. Also, an employee who requests to be paid by another method must be paid by an allowable alternative method within two pay periods.

Pregnancy

An amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act adds protections for pregnant employees and job applicants. Existing law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth. The new law expands the law’s coverage to employees and applicants experiencing “medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.”

The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations under certain circumstances. Those accommodations most often will involve limits on lifting, access to places to sit, and more frequent bathroom breaks.

For more information on the ban-the-box law, see the August issue of Illinois Employment Law Letter. For more information on the payroll card and pregnancy laws, see the September issue of Illinois Employment Law Letter.

Steven L. Brenneman is an attorney with Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP, in Chicago and an editor of Illinois Employment Law Letter. He can be reached at sbrenneman@fslc.com.

About Illinois Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from Illinois Employment Law Letter, and written by attorneys at Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP. ILLINOIS EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER does not attempt to offer solutions to individual problems but rather to provide information about current developments in Illinois employment law. Questions about individual problems should be addressed to the employment law attorney of your choice.
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