Employers in Illinois will have to provide many benefits to same-sex partners under the new state law that legalizes civil unions. The law allows any two people to enter into a civil union that is legally recognized by the state as entailing the same responsibilities, benefits and protections as marriage. An Illinois civil union can be between a man and a woman, or between two people of the same sex.
The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on January 31, 2011.
In practical terms, employers will need to provide many benefits to straight, gay or lesbian partners in a civil union beginning on June 1, 2011, when the Illinois civil union law goes into effect. On that date, employers must provide the same benefits to the partner of an employee in a civil union, as the employer provides to spouses of married employees. In particular, an employer who provides group health insurance coverage from an outside company, must provide the same coverage at the same price for employees in a civil union, as for married employees.
There are two notable exceptions to coverage under the law, according to attorney Theresa Essig with Fischer & Phillips law firm. First, an employer who is self-insured need not provide coverage to civil union partners, even if they provide coverage to spouses. Second, the law specifically allows religious organizations to make their own decisions about which dependents to cover.
Any other benefits provided to employees under state law, such as paid vacations and sick leave, will have to treat married spouses and partners in civil unions the same.
Ms. Essig adds that final regulations have not yet been written, so there may be changes in these policies. Her assessment is based on the impact of similar legislation in other states. Currently gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry (more…)
Beginning on January 1, 2011, Illinois employers will be limited in performing credit checks on employees and applicants. On that date, the Employee Privacy Act goes into effect. Hawaii and Oregon also have laws that limit the use of credit reports in background checks, while other states are considering them.
The new credit check law prohibits employers from ordering a credit report on an applicant or employee, and from asking about credit history, although the law includes a number of loopholes that will apply to many exempt management employees.
Employees or applicants can sue an employer who violates the law, and may be awarded damages, relief, court costs and attorney’s fees.
An employer can still perform credit checks on an applicant or a current employee if the business can establish that good credit is a bona fide job qualification. In order to do so, the individual must involve one or more of the following: (more…)
Expanded Leave Rights
Every Illinois employer needs to be aware of an amendment to the Illinois Victims Economic Security and Safety Act. The new law requires employers to extend unpaid, job-protected leave to victims of domestic violence or sexual violence.
Under the new law, effective August 24, 2009, employers with 50 or more workers must provide up to 12 weeks of FMLA-type leave to employees who are victims of rape, sexual assault or another type of sexual violence. The law requires employers with 15 to 49 employees to provide 8 weeks of unpaid leave.
Employers must also extend the same benefits to victims of domestic violence of any kind.
This new law is notable because Illinois has no family leave law at the state level – so this is the state’s first intrusion into expanding FMLA to smaller employers. Currently, there is no Illinois law that requires an employer with 15 to 49 workers to provide leave for any reasons other than sexual violence or domestic violence.
New Illinois Discrimination Law
Under a new Illinois discrimination law, victims of stalkers, domestic violence and other crimes are protected from employment discrimination. The amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits the employer from discriminating against an employee who is protected by an order of protection or a similar order issued in anther state.
Under the law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2010, the employer cannot make employment decisions based entirely or in part on whether a worker is shielded by an order of protection. For example, the employer could not refuse to hire Jane, a teacher, simply because she has an order of protection against her ex-husband Ted. (more…)
Illinois employers can now relax — they will not face criminal charges if an employee or customer smokes on the premises.
Governor Pat Quinn signed Public Act 95-1029 into law. The bill amends the Smoke-Free Illinois act by specifying that violators will face civil – not criminal –charges. While the penalties will still include fines, they will not include jail time.
The Smoke-free Illinois Act requires that every employer post signs prohibiting smoking within 15 feet of any doors. It also prohibits smoking in all workplaces, including bars, restaurants, schools, theaters and casinos.
The Illinois non-smoking law defines smoking as carrying a lit cigarette, pipe, cigar or any other smoking material or implement. In addition, smoking, burning, inhaling and exhaling are also defined as smoking. The law specifically prohibits herbs and weeds as well as tobacco.
Smoking is prohibited 15 feet from any windows that open or ventilation intakes that serve an indoor workplace under the new law.
The current law replaced a less-restrictive Illinois smoking ban (more…)
A new state law that permits parents to keep sons and daughters (and other dependents) on their health insurance until age 26 will affect many Illinois employers. The law also permits parents to extend coverage for dependents who are veterans until age 30.
This new law goes into effect on June 1, 2009. Families will have 90 days after their policy is renewed, to add the dependent to an existing policy. Each year thereafter, parents will be able to enroll dependents during the normal open enrollment period.