Employers in Missouri and Illinois saw the passage of several new employment-related laws in 2017. Below is a look at some legislative highlights of 2017 and how they might affect your business in 2018.
Missouri employment laws
Missouri minimum wage change: Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the minimum wage in Missouri is $7.85. This applies to all Missouri businesses except retail and service businesses with less than $500,000 in gross sales. (Some agricultural employees and certain classifications of employees are also exempt.) Tipped employees’ total hourly wage must equal at least $7.85, with employers required to pay at least 50 percent and to adjust if needed to bring that employee to the minimum wage threshold. Employers should keep in mind that failure to comply could result in misdemeanor charges and civil penalties. In addition, employers need to ensure that their labor law posters are current with this update.
Missouri also enacted a law in 2017 to invalidate city ordinances increasing minimum wage requirements within city limits, including a prior St. Louis City ordinance that increased the minimum wage to $10. Therefore, minimum wage requirements will remain set by the Missouri legislature for the foreseeable future.
Missouri Right to Work Law: In February 2017, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed into law Missouri’s right-to-work legislation, which was slated to take effect on Aug. 28, 2017. The law would have banned mandatory union dues. However, the Missouri AFL-CIO petitioned for a referendum to put the issue before voters — effectively suspending the right-to-work law from taking effect. Now, the law is set for a public vote on the November 2018 ballot.
Missouri Human Rights Act changes: As we have been reporting over the past year, the Missouri Human Rights Act underwent major changes in 2017. The majority of these changes apply to the enforcement side of the law rather than the day-to-day compliance side. Nevertheless, employers should familiarize themselves with these changes to better understand potential liability for violations. A short list of the changes is provided below, and a more comprehensive summary can be found here:
- Changes the burden of proof from the contributing factor standard to motivating factor;
- Imposes caps on damages for a prevailing plaintiff based on the size of the employer;
- Removes supervisors and others from individual liability;
- Requires Missouri courts to heavily rely on the judicial interpretations of federal anti-discrimination laws;
- Requires Missouri courts to give a “business decision” jury instruction if requested by the employer;
- Encourages Missouri courts to summarily dispose of cases that lack sufficient facts prior to trial and apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s burden shifting framework used in Title VII cases;
- Permits employers to raise timeliness defenses at any time during the administrative charge phase or litigation; and
- Codifies the common law exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine by implementing the “Whistleblower’s Protection Act” that, in part, prohibits recovery of unfettered punitive damages by allowing recovery of liquidated damages in egregious circumstances.
Illinois Employment Laws
Illinois Freedom to Work Act (820 ILCS 90): The Illinois Freedom to Work Act, enacted in 2017, prohibits employers from entering into noncompetition agreements with employees who earn less than the applicable minimum wage or less than $13 per hour (whichever is greater). Under the act, these prohibited agreements include any agreement that restricts a low-wage worker’s ability to work for other employers within a particular time period, geographic area or industry. The act was seen as a response to the increased use of non-competition agreements among fast-food chains and other employers of typically low-wage workers. Notably, the act does not prohibit or restrict nonsolicitation agreements or nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements.
Amendment to the Genetic Information Privacy Act (410 ILCS 513/25): This amendment, effective Jan. 1, 2018, prohibits employers from penalizing employees who refuse to disclose genetic information or participate in workplace wellness programs that require disclosure of such information. The Illinois Genetic Information Privacy Act was enacted in 1997 and provides that employers may not use genetic information or testing in furtherance of wellness programs unless: (1) the employer offers the health or genetic services; (2) the employee provides written authorization; (3) only the employee, the employee’s family member receiving the services, and the licensed health care professional/genetic counselor receive the individualized results of the services; and (4) any individually identifiable information is only available for purposes of such services and shall not be disclosed to the employer except in aggregate terms that do not disclose the identity of specific employees.
Illinois “Religious Garb” Law (775 ILCS 5/2-102(E-5)): Effective Aug. 11, 2017, the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) was amended to clarify that it is considered unlawful religious discrimination to impose an employment condition that would require an applicant or employee “to violate or forgo a sincerely held practice of his or her religion including, but not limited to, the wearing of any attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion.” However, if the employer, after engaging in a bona fide effort, demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate the employee's or applicant’s sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business, then the restriction will be found to be non-discriminatory. The amendment does not prohibit an employer from enacting a dress code or grooming policy that may include restrictions on attire, clothing or facial hair to maintain workplace safety or food sanitation.