New Laws in 2021
One would think that with Covid and the legislature not coming back into session this year, that there’d be dearth of new laws and other nonsense coming out of the State House. But Illinois government being Illinois government, that’s just not the case. So let’s take a look at some of the new laws that Illinois will be forced to deal with in 2021.
For the third time since 2020 the minimum wage will again increase, this time to $11 per hour effective January 1, 2021. It will continue to increase on an annual basis until January 1, 2025, when it reaches $15 per hour.
Employment and Discrimination
Prior to July 1, 2020, employers with less than fifteen employees were not subject to the full panoply of state discrimination laws. That changed this summer when the number was reduced to one. In addition, Illinois employers are now required to file all judgments or rulings finding discrimination or harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The filings must be made by no later than July 1 of the following year.
Illinois Higher Education Program
Effective as of January 1, 2021, every child born or adopted in Illinois will get $50 deposited into a college savings account, also know as a 529 plan. Although that $50 may only grow to a few hundred dollars by the time people are ready to apply to college, the hope is that children will be more likely to attend college simply by virtue of having a savings account. If not used by the age of 26, the money forfeits back to the State to be reinvested in the program. The state estimates the initial cost for the program will be $8,000,000, with an additional $1,500,000 for each year thereafter.
Texting and Driving
Distracted driving continues to be a problem, and the legislature this year decided to increase penalties for texting while driving where great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement results. In that event, the driver’s license will be suspended for twelve months and a minimum find of $1,000 will be imposed. In a similar vein, another new law requires a twelve month suspension for motorists who violate the right of way at crosswalks or school zones in which serious injury is caused to another person.
Starting this school year, Illinois schools must teach LGBTQ history. They are also required to purchase “non-discriminatory” textbooks that include a focus on the “roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.” Also, at least one semester of civics must be taught between sixth and eighth grades, with a focus on government institutions and the democratic process.
Sexual Harassment Training
We touched on this last year, but it bears repeating: Every Illinois employer is required to provide sexual harassment training to all employees. Failure to do so could result in severe financial consequences. Employers may develop their own program or use a “model training plan” developed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Most employers are using the model plan, which can be found here: https://www2.illinois.gov/dhr/Training/pages/default.aspx. The training must be repeated every year. In addition, restaurants and bars are required to establish and distribute a separate written policy on sexual harassment to all employees within the first week of employment, and must also provide supplemental training on harassment.
Declaring it a public policy that people should have the right to drive to work despite not being able to pay a driving ticket, the legislature decreed that the Secretary of State cannot suspend a driver’s license under these circumstances.
Illinois Retail Act
So called “remote retailers” (think internet sales) who meet a threshold of 200 transactions or $100,000 in gross revenues from Illinois residents are now required to collect and remit state and locally imposed sales taxes starting January 1, 2021 thanks to the “Leveling the Playing Field for Illinois Retail Act.” According to the Illinois Municipal League, “This law ensures that sales made in marketplaces or by remote retailers, which have economic nexus in Illinois, are taxed at the same rate as brick-and-mortar businesses, therefore leveling the playing field for retailers and ensuring municipal governments have the revenues necessary to address their local needs.”