2019 New Laws
During the 100th General Assembly, 1,268 pieces of legislation passed through both houses of the legislature. The Governor signed 1,044 bills while vetoing 135 items. Of those bills vetoed, 50 were overridden. The end result is that there are 235 new laws that are now in effect, or will take effect, in 2019.
Expense Reimbursement. One of the more significant new provisions is also one that, surprisingly, hasn’t received much publicity. Thanks to an amendment to the Wage Payment and Collection Act, employers are now required to reimburse employees for “all necessary expenditures that are incurred by the employee” and that are “directly related to services performed for the employer.” Necessary expenditures are defined as expenses “required” of an employee in the discharge of his or her duties. It sounds simple, but there’s a lot to unpack here. This could be a significant change to Illinois’ wage laws.
The statute is primarily aimed at employee use of personal computers, phones and home internet (to the extent required to work at home). As with calculating overtime, any employee who is expected to field emails or phone calls after standard working hours may fall under the amended statute’s umbrella.
At the moment, it is unclear how that statute is to be applied or how narrowly the word “required” will be defined. Eight other states have similar statutes, and until the Illinois version is fleshed out via regulations and court decisions, some suggest that employers look to California for guidance. There, employers have been forced to pay an employee’s cell phone even when he or she is on an unlimited plan or for a portion of home internet costs when those services were used, only in small part, for business purposes.
Significantly, the Illinois law provides that employers with a written expense reimbursement policy won’t be liable for costs that exceed policy limits so long as the policy doesn’t “provide for no … or de minimis reimbursement.” Nor will an employer be liable if an employee fails to strictly follow the policy’s requirements.
What’s the takeaway? Look over your expense policy and, if you don’t have one, think about instituting one in consultation with your attorney. There will be some uncertainty about how to apply the statute, but I can predict with a high level of confidence that (much like overtime issues) this will be fertile ground for litigation.
Nursing Mothers. Employers with more than five employees must now provide paid breaks for nursing mothers who must express milk at work. In addition to any breaks (whether paid or unpaid) already allowed, employers must now allow a “reasonable” paid break each time milk needs to be expressed for one year after the child’s birth. If an employer can show that providing the breaks will cause it “undue hardship,” then the employer is exempt.
Car Seats. A new law requires all children under two years (unless over 40 pounds) be in a rear-facing seat when in a vehicle. First time fines are $75 with a second fine of no more than $200.
Firearms. Illinois now has a 72 hour waiting period on the sale of all firearms, not just handguns. The new law also eliminates the former exemption from a waiting period for sales to non-residents.
In addition, a new statute allows the police or family members to ask a court to find that a person is a danger to himself or others by virtue of possession of a firearm. The action can be taken without notice to the gun owner, but an evidentiary hearing must be held within 14 days to allow the owner to state his or her case. And, the new law allows a judge to issue a search warrant for the police to seize any weapons.
Divorce/Spousal Maintenance. Thanks to new federal tax laws, the way a court calculates maintenance will chang on January 1. First, the person paying maintenance may no longer deduct it for taxable income purposes, nor may the receiver include it in taxable income. Second, the percentage calculations will also change. Although it sounds simple, there are quite a few complexities with the new law – so make sure to consult your family law attorney if you pay or receive maintenance, or are anticipating filing a divorce.
Texting and Driving. Until July 1, 2019 first violations of texting while driving will remain “non-moving” violations that won’t affect a driving record. Thereafter, however, it becomes a moving violation. And anyone with three moving violations within 12 months face the prospect of having his license suspended. All the more reason not to drive distracted.