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How Will Illinois Workers Be Better Protected in 2020?

Published on Jan 2, 2020 at 7:00 pm in Law and Information.

As the new year approaches, so do new laws. There are a number of law changes happening for Illinois residents in 2020. As an employee of any size company, it’s important to understand your legal rights and options under employment law. We’ll be looking at the implementation of the Workplace Transparency Act, Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act, and the amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act.

The Workplace Transparency Act

The Illinois Workplace Transparency Act goes into effect on January 1, 2020. The Act will impose annual anti-harassment training and reporting requirements, in addition to limitations on the use of confidentiality and arbitration provisions in employment agreements and contracts.

Annual Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Illinois employers are now required to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all employees. They can either issue their own training program or satisfy the requirement with model training issued by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR).

If employers choose to implement their own training program, it has to include an explanation of sexual harassment that’s consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act, examples of unlawful conduct, a summary of federal and state statutory provisions, and details of the responsibility of an employer in regard to prevention, investigation, and correction.

Annual Reporting to the Illinois Department of Human Rights

Beginning July 1, 2020, employers in Illinois are required to annually disclose the number of adverse judgments or administrative rulings against the employer in sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination cases to the IDHR. The IDHR will use the data to publish a yearly report. All employers’ identities will be kept confidential.

Restrictions on Confidentiality and Arbitration Provisions

Under the Workplace Transparency Act, employers are not allowed to mandate arbitration of discrimination or harassment claims or require current or prospective employees to waive or diminish existing or future claims rights related to alleged, unlawful discriminatory practices.

Additionally, agreements preventing employees from making truthful statements are void and against public policy. To enforce proper confidentiality and arbitration provisions, the agreements must be in writing, demonstrating actual consideration from both parties, and acknowledge an employee’s rights.

Protecting Hotel and Casino Employees

There are a number of casinos in and around Chicago. Thousands of people work for these hospitality locations. Working with the public isn’t always easy. When a customer becomes irate, violent, or inappropriate, it can be confusing to know what to do as an employee—especially if you’re worried about remaining employed. Fortunately for hotel and casino employees in Illinois, the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act becomes effective on January 1, 2020.

In order to improve employee safety, employers at hotels and casinos are required to provide employees with portable notification devices when they’re working alone in guest rooms, restrooms, or on the casino floor. An employee can summon help to their location if they reasonably believe an ongoing crime, harassment, assault, or other emergency is happening. These devices are to be provided at no cost to the employees.

In addition to the panic buttons, facilities are now required to implement a sexual harassment policy that protects employees from sexual harassment and assault from guests. The policy should encourage employees to report instances of assault or harassment immediately. The policy must also include the following elements:

  • A description of the procedures employers and employees should follow when receiving or reporting a complaint of sexual harassment of assault by a guest
  • Instructions that allow the employee to cease work and leave the area where the danger is perceived until personnel or the police arrive to provide assistance
  • A provision for paid time off to file a police report and testify as a witness
  • A notice that the Illinois Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provide additional protection against sexual harassment in the workplace
  • A notice to employees that retaliation is prohibited against any employee who uses a panic button or files a complaint

In the event a hotel or casino does not comply with the new laws, they have 15 days to remedy the alleged violation. If the issue is not addressed, the employee can file a lawsuit against the facility.

Changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act

In response to the high-profile cases involving sexual harassment outside the workplace, the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) has been amended to say that a hostile work environment is not limited to the conduct that occurs in the physical workspace. This expanded definition applies to instances of sexual harassment.

Additionally, more employers are subject to the IHRA. Previously employers with 15 or more employees were required to abide by the regulations. Now, employers with one or more employees have to ensure they provide protection for their workers and follow through with sexual harassment training and reporting.

To learn more about how 2020 laws will better protect workers in the Chicago area, contact our office today. We stay up-to-date on all the most recent law changes so we can serve our clients and provide them with the legal representation they deserve.