Springfield Business Journal Articles

Sarah Delano Pavlik

New Laws in 2020

With the new format of the Business Journal rolling out this month, we’re taking this as an opportunity to try to spice up the legal column as well. So, going forward, we’d invite readers to submit questions to us and we’ll do our best to answer them.  But first, let’s take a look at some of the new laws that will be confronting us this year.

Minimum Wage Increase.  There will be two increases to the minimum wage in 2020.  On January 1, it will increase to $9.25, and then on July 1, 2020 it will increase to $10.  By 2025 it will be up to $15.

Pet Cats.  Have a pet cat?  You’re now required to vaccinate it for rabies once it reaches 4 months old, with a second shot being required one year after the first.  Apparently cats don’t have an anti-vaccination lobby, so there’s no religious objection exemption.

Employment Discrimination/Sexual Harassment.  Recent amendments to several statutes in this area of the law:

  • Clarify that the prohibitions against discrimination apply outside the physical office, and include online harassment;
  • Provide protection against discrimination against one’s “perceived” status;
  • Protect non-employees from harassment (e.g. independent contractors);
  • Require bars and restaurants to have a special anti-sexual harassment policy available in Spanish and English;
  • Limit the use of non-disclosure, non-disparagement and arbitration clauses; and
  • Require all employers to provide annual training based on a sexual harassment program that is to be developed by the State.Failure to comply can subject you to civil penalties.The first deadline to comply is January 1, 2021.

Artificial Intelligence.  Employers must get an applicant’s consent before using “artificial intelligence” in connection with an employment application.  Employers must explain how the artificial intelligence will be used, and must delete any video interviews in connection with the use of AI within 30 days.

Equal Pay Act.  As of this past fall, employers with more than four employees may not:

  • Screen applicants based on pay history;
  • Rely on pay history in making employment or salary decisions;
  • Require an applicant to disclose prior pay history;
  • Require employees to agree not to disclose their own compensation to others;
  • Seek pay history of an applicant.

There are some exceptions, and a violation of the Act can subject an employer to special damages of up to $10,000 as well as costs and attorney’s fees.

Further, other amendments have softened the standard under which equal pay claims are analyzed.  With this change, some defenses previously available to employers have been weakened.  Well-advised employers should consult with their legal counsel to make sure that HR policies are consistent with the new law.

Illinois Secure Choice/Small Business Retirement Savings.  In an attempt to increase the number of employees with access to an employer sponsored retirement plan, employers with between 25 and 99 employees and who don’t already have a retirement plan must enroll in Illinois Secure Choice.  Employees are automatically enrolled into a Roth IRA at a contribution rate of 5% of gross pay.  Employees may change the rate or decide to opt out.  The plan is designed not to burden employers with direct costs, but there are administrative requirements.  The Roth IRA is portable and can be carried from job to job.  Investing and servicing is done on a pooled basis by providers selected through a competitive bidding process.  Employers who fail to comply are subject to fines of up to $250 per employee for the first year, and $500 per for each following year.

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