An amendment to the Illinois Liquor Control Act (the Act), effective July 15, 2015, imposes new training requirements for various individuals involved in the sale and serving of alcohol in Cook County. Under the new law, all alcohol servers must complete Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) by July 1, 2015, or within 120 days after the alcohol server begins employment, whichever is later.

The Act defines an "alcohol server" as a person who sells or serves open containers of alcoholic beverages at retail locations. Any individual whose job description requires the checking of identification for the purchase of open-container alcoholic beverages at retail locations or anyone whose job description requires the same for entry into a licensed premises must also complete the required training. Once issued, the alcohol server's training certificate is valid for three years and belongs to the server. Servers may transfer the certificate to a different employer, but it may not be transferred between servers.

Most employers are expected to require their servers to obtain their certificates on their own time and at their own expense, much like requiring that an individual possess a valid CDL in order to work as a truck driver. Some employers, however, may reimburse employees for the cost of the training, provided the employee agrees to repay the employer if he or she leaves his or her job within a certain period of time. Employers should also be mindful of the fact that attendance at training programs such as this may be counted as working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois state law if certain restrictions are placed on the training prerequisite. For example, if an employer requires a server to attend BASSET training during working hours or attend a specific program, the employer may then have to pay the employee for the time spent in training. Of course, to accomplish timely compliance with BASSET, a restaurant or bar may want to schedule an in-house training session during work hours and pay employees for the time spent in training.

Enforcement of the new certification requirement is limited to education and notification of the certification requirement—with the aim of encouraging compliance—between July 15, 2015 and December 31, 2015. It is unclear at this time what sanctions will be imposed for noncompliance after December 31, 2015.