In recent months, we have reported on some significant amendments to Illinois employment laws on the horizon for 2015. Now that 2015—and these new requirements—are in full swing, we thought a brief recap and reminder of two key changes might prove helpful to Illinois employers.

Illinois Human Rights Act

As of January 1, 2015, the Illinois Human Rights Act specifically prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Under the newly amended Act, employers must now provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and applicants. Such accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • More frequent or longer bathroom breaks;
  • Breaks for increased water intake;
  • Breaks for periodic rest;
  • Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding;
  • Seating;
  • Assistance with manual labor;
  • Light duty;
  • Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
  • The provision of an accessible worksite;
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment;
  • Job restructuring;
  • A part-time or modified work schedule;
  • Appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies;
  • Reassignment to a vacant position;
  • Time off to recover from conditions related to childbirth; and
  • Leave necessitated by pregnancy or childbirth.

When the accommodation is no longer needed, employees must be reinstated to their original job or an equivalent position.

The Act also prohibits employers from:

  1. taking any adverse actions against employees or applicants based on their need for pregnancy accommodations;
  2. requiring a pregnant employee or applicant to accept any accommodation that she did not request and does not wish to accept, or
  3. requiring a pregnant employee to take leave as an accommodation if another reasonable accommodation is available.

The Act does allow for an exception to the requirement to accommodate pregnant employees in the limited situation where an employer can prove that a needed accommodation would impose an “undue burden” on an employer’s business. Factors considered in that analysis include the cost of the accommodation, the financial resources of the employer generally and the particular facility providing the accommodation, and the impact of the accommodation on the employer’s operations.

Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act

Amendments to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act also took effect on January 1, 2015, allowing employers to pay wages to employees through payroll cards (in addition to direct deposit or check).

As the newly amended Act repeatedly emphasizes, payment by payroll cards must be entirely voluntary. Thus, employers cannot require employees to accept this form of payment as a condition of employment, must offer all other methods of payment required by the Act, and must obtain an employee’s voluntary written or electronic consent to receive wages by payroll card. In addition, before implementing a payroll card system, employers must provide “clear and conspicuous” written disclosure to employees:

  • Notifying them that payment by payroll card is voluntary;
  • Listing the other methods of payment offered; and
  • Explaining the terms and conditions of the payroll card account option, including an itemized list of fees that may be deducted by the employer, a notice that third party transaction fees may be assessed, and explaining how to obtain information regarding net wages, account balance, and transaction history through the payroll account.

Employees paid wages through payroll accounts have the right under the Act to demand payment by check or direct deposit instead.